Opposition is growing around a regional climate compact backed by Gov. Charlie Baker — with officials in nearby New England states knocking the deal as others mull it over.
Governors in New Hampshire, Connecticut and most recently Vermont have already cast a shadow on the Transportation Climate Initiative, which would implement a gas fee to reduce carbon emissions. Officials have estimated the measure would raise gas prices between 5 to 17 cents per gallon in the first year.
“If Vermont and Connecticut follow New Hampshire and withdraw from TCI, and Massachusetts stays in, is it still TCI or just a Massachusetts state gas tax?” MassFiscal Alliance Spokesman Paul Craney told the Herald.
Two organizations are campaigning against the measure in Maine and the House Speaker of Rhode Island has publicly indicated he would not support it.
The Maine Heritage Policy Center opposes the TCI because it’s a “bad deal for Maine,” according to spokesman Jacob Posik. At 17 cents per gallon, the TCI would cost the average family $225 per year, according to Posik.
“Mainers should not be penalized for driving their children to school, going to work or running errands,” Posik said.
Spokeswoman Julie Rabinowitz of Maine People Before Politics argued that that the status quo regulatory and market environment will reduce emissions by 19 percent without any additional incentives, and under the “most aggressive” scenario within the TCI, emissions would be reduced by an additional 6 percent.
“The whole goal of this scheme is to make gas more expensive for consumers so they will drive less or buy an electric car,” Rabinowitz said. “It is outrageous to burden the working poor and people of rural Maine with a huge increase in costs for only a 6 percent change over the status quo.”
Meanwhile, Maine Governor Janet Mills is taking a more centrist approach as she “continues to monitor” the Initiative and will be “appropriately cautious” when considering the issues, a spokeswoman said.
Rhode Island House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello effectively ruled out any tax increases proposed by fellow Democrat Gov. Gina Raimondo last month, including the potential gas tax hike emanating from a regional climate initiative, saying it “will be looked at very skeptically,” The Providence Journal reported. Mattiello declined further comment.
Raimondo is “fully committed” to the initiative, however, and “believes we need an aggressive approach to lowering carbon emissions in the transportation sector,” according to a spokeswoman. “The specific statutory and regulatory changes needed to meet those goals will be the source of public discussion and input over the coming year.”
Maryland Environment Secretary Ben Grumbles said the state “remains very engaged in the Transportation and Climate Initiative. We will continue to seek and review comments from citizens and stakeholders to determine potential next steps.”
New Jersey has also not committed to implementing the program at this point, according to the Department of Environmental Protection. Officials from New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and the District of Columbia did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu called the measure a “financial boondoggle”and said in mid-December he would not “force Granite Staters to pay more for their gas just to subsidize other states’ crumbling infrastructure.”
Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont called the measure a “gas tax” that will punish drivers earlier this week and Vermont Gov. Phil Scott said he cannot support proposals that will increase costs for commuters.
Baker has indicated that he would exercise his executive power to implement the TCI compact, but he did say he would give the Legislature more information about the pact.
“The Administration is pleased by the robust participation by Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states throughout the program’s ongoing development process and by the broad coalition of support from members of both the business and environmental communities,” EEA Spokeswoman Katie Gronendyke said.