In mid-November, the Baker-Polito administration announced that it was withdrawing from the multi-state transportation emissions reduction compact known as the Transportation Climate Initiative.

Citing waning regional support for the initiative and an anticipated influx of federal funds dedicated to transportation infrastructure, the administration said the TCI was no longer viable, nor was it necessary in order to meet the state’s emissions reduction goals.

In a press release, the administration explained that it “always maintained the Commonwealth would only move forward with TCI if multiple states committed.”

Further, the state’s revenue surplus and the estimated $10 billion it will receive from a federal infrastructure bill “make the Commonwealth better positioned to upgrade its roads, bridges and public transportation systems, while also making investments to reduce transportation emissions, deliver equitable transportation solutions and benefits, and meet the state’s ambitious climate goals.”

A landmark climate law signed by Gov. Charlie Baker earlier this year requires the state to cut its carbon emissions from all sources to 50% below 1990 levels by the end of the decade and achieve net zero emissions by 2050. Transportation-related emissions represent about 40% of total emissions in this part of the country.

The TCI was to be structured as a “cap-and-trade” system for transportation fuels, with a cap set on the total amount of carbon dioxide allowed to be emitted from vehicles across the multistate region. Within the cap, participating jurisdictions would sell carbon “allowances” to wholesale fuel suppliers, at a certain rate per ton of greenhouse gas emissions produced by their fuel. Individual fuel suppliers would then choose whether to pass the cost of the carbon allowances along to fuel retailers, and whether retailers would pass them on to customers.

The participating jurisdictions, across the New England and the Mid-Atlantic region, would have been required to invest all revenue from the sale of carbon allowances, estimated at billions of dollars over the next decade, in state or local initiatives that reduce or eliminate transportation-based emissions.

Critics expressed concerns about higher gas prices, and when the final agreement was announced in December 2020, only Connecticut, Rhode Island and Washington, D.C., joined Massachusetts in signing on.

The governors of Connecticut and Rhode Island also announced their states’ withdrawal from TCI this past fall, effectively dooming the compact.

The MMA had expressed its support for the TCI in a 2020 transportation policy resolution and a fall 2019 column by MMA Executive Director Geoff Beckwith.

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