This week the governors of three New England states and the mayor of Washington, D.C., signed a regional pact aimed at dramatically reducing transportation pollution while leaving time for states skeptical of the effort — including Maine — to sign on as well.
The Transportation and Climate Initiative Program is designed to reduce motor vehicle emissions by 26 percent by 2032. The initiative was signed Monday by Republican Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker as well as Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont, Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo and Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser.
The states account for about 73 percent of the transportation emissions and 76 percent of the vehicles in New England. The governors of the three other New England states, Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, have shared concerns about the program, in part over fears that it amounts to a gas tax or a tax on carbon that would mostly burden people in rural areas.
The initiative will require large gasoline and diesel fuel suppliers to purchase “allowances” for the pollution caused by the use of the fuels they sell in the region. The allowances would decline each year, generating billions for states to invest in carbon-reducing transportation options.
In New England, transportation is responsible for over 40 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, while that figure in Maine is close to 50 percent.
The regional effort has existed since 2010, Maine has been participating in discussions around the initiative since just after Governor Janet Mills took office in 2019, but her administration has expressed concerns all along.
Opponents have raised concerns about a potential gas price hike. If fuel companies pass the cost of the allowances onto consumers, the price of gas in the region could climb by five cents to 17 cents per gallon when the pact takes effect.
Other states still have the ability to formally sign onto the initiative. The program is scheduled to begin in 2023 after a reporting year to allow for additional jurisdictions to sign on. Those states, in addition to the other New England states, include Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Virginia.