Rhode Island rethinks plan to cut transportation pollution

Photo by Steve Klamkin WPRO News

The Associated Press

Rhode Island officials plan to lean on federal funding and come up with a new way to cut emissions from the transportation sector, following the demise of a multistate compact aimed at dramatically reducing transportation pollution.

Terrence Gray, acting director of the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, said it was “unexpected and pretty disappointing” that the Transportation and Climate Initiative fell apart.

The proposal was a long-term effort to curb greenhouse gas pollution caused by transportation. It would have required large gasoline and diesel fuel suppliers to purchase allowances for the pollution caused by the use of the fuels they sell in the region, generating billions for states to invest in carbon-reducing transportation options.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker abandoned the deal Thursday because it failed to gain traction in other states. That announcement came after Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont backed away because of the potential for gas price hikes.

Gray said it’s too soon to say what could take the place of TCI, but there’s an unprecedented influx of stimulus money and federal investment at the state level that could be used to help the environment. The proceeds from the allowances through TCI were expected to drive down emissions in the transportation sector about 30 percent over the next decade, he added.

“We need to make up that 30% somehow. Some of it may be made up by federal action and other climate change initiatives going on right now, but there’s still going to be a gap,” Gray said. “We need to think through a sustainable model going forward that works for Rhode Island, hopefully with regional collaboration. But if not, we’re going to have to go it alone.”

Thirteen states and Washington were working on the compact, but only the southeastern New England states and Washington signed a memorandum of understanding to move forward.