Northeast States Plan New Program To Cut Transportation Emissions

Dec 18, 2018

Traffic on Route 2 in Massachusetts.
Credit Pi.1415926535 / Wikimedia Commons

Nine Northeast states and the District of Columbia will plan a new program to price and reduce carbon emissions from the transportation sector.

The initiative, announced Tuesday, does not yet include New Hampshire, Maine or New York.

Passenger vehicles and other forms of transit are the country's biggest sources of carbon emissions that drive climate change.

Now, the participating states say they’ll spend the next year designing a way to change that – with an eye toward equitably affecting communities that have limited transit alternatives.

Officials hope to devise a system that would limit and price transportation emissions, and use the resulting revenues to make their transportation systems more resilient.

The program could mimic the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which studies show has been successful in cutting emissions and boosting regional economies.

Jim O’Brien is a spokesman for the Nature Conservancy in New Hampshire.

“As we’ve seen with the electric sector, a regional approach on reducing transportation emissions seems like the best way forward – especially [in an] economy-wide way,” O’Brien says.

The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services says in a statement it will continue participating in meetings of the Transportation and Climate Initiative, or TCI. That group includes the Northeast and Atlantic states and has been looking into transportation sector emissions issues since 2010. 

The DES statement says that when the new program is complete, “policy makers will, at that time, need to evaluate whether participation in the program is in New Hampshire’s best interests.” 

It says New Hampshire will also keep working with the other TCI states on electric vehicle initiatives, as well as “promoting the development of sustainable communities, and seeking ways to improve the efficiency of freight movement throughout the region.”  

Jim O’Brien says states will be affected by the carbon pricing program whether or not they play an active role in shaping it, because the region's transportation system is so interconnected.  

“We should be at the table working on solutions with our neighbors and not waiting for things to happen to us,” he says.

The states that are participating in developing the program say they’ll each decide whether to adopt it after the year-long planning process.

“The participants intend this program to be implemented on a regional basis after a critical mass of Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states have completed the legal processes to implement the agreed upon pricing mechanism,” their joint statement says.

Officials in Maine and New York did not immediately respond to requests for comment.