And then there were three.
An ambitious regional plan to slash vehicle emissions appears to be running on fumes after Connecticut became the 10th state to back out of the crumbling multistate Transportation Climate Initiative.
The program, championed by Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, would cap carbon pollution by requiring fuel companies that exceed emissions limits to buy permits, with those proceeds invested in green transportation and climate-resilient infrastructure.
But the once-robust support for TCI has evaporated. Just three states — Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut, plus Washington, D.C. — signed the compact in December, a far cry from the 13 jurisdictions that expressed initial interest in the deal when first presented in 2019.
The fuel industry has steadfastly opposed the idea, citing increased costs to consumers at the pump. Gas prices would rise by about 5 to 9 cents per gallon when the program takes effect in 2023, state officials have said. Other studies peg the price hike at closer to 25 cents a gallon.
That was before gasoline prices soared to their roughly $3 a gallon level.
And now comes another TCI defection, with Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont — who called the TCI partnership “a win for all of us” when he signed on last winter — announcing Friday his state’s intention to walk away from the partnership.
“The leadership was very clear. Really all the leadership — Republicans and Democrats alike — in saying that they didn’t have the votes to get TCI done,” Lamont told NBC Connecticut.
TCI proponents have failed to persuade state legislatures that the climate strides this initiative would make justify what critics perceive as just another regressive gas tax, at a time when the overall economy tries to regain its pre-pandemic footing.
The future of this now shell of a compact remains in the balance.
Its initial goal to cap carbon emissions from Maine to Virginia — generating about $160 million annually for Massachusetts — has just two New England states and our nation’s capital to carry out that mission.
Whether they’ll persevere as placeholders in the belief that other states will eventually come on board would seem a flawed strategy, given TCI’s unfavorable reception among Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states.
This cap-and-invest program took its cue from a similar agreement that successfully reduced Northeast power plant emissions 40% below 2005 levels.
However, that occurred without raising average electricity prices, something the TCI can’t replicate.
Its demise can’t come soon enough for Paul Diego Craney of Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance.
“With Gov. Lamont signaling that TCI is dead in Connecticut, this is great news for taxpayers everywhere,” Craney told the Boston Herald.
“It shows that one less state is falling for this regressive gas tax scheme that does not do anything to help the environment and only subsidizes electric vehicles for the affluent,” Craney said.
The Baker administration did not immediately comment on the TCI’s latest fall from its once baker’s-dozen level of support.
The governor’s insistence on persisting with this failed climate alliance has confounded some of the state’s greenest lawmakers.
Even Sen. Michael Barrett, a Lexington Democrat and the co-chair of the Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy Committee, suggested that with the unraveling of TCI, Baker should try to join with California or solicit other states outside the region to create a market for carbon allowances.
That’s a Plan B scenario state Environmental Secretary Karen Theohardies previously said the administration wasn’t interested in contemplating while trying to win the support of neighboring states to the TCI cause.
Now, Plan B’s looking like the only plausible option.