Director, Massachusetts Sierra Club; Westborough resident
There is widespread agreement in Massachusetts and throughout the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions that we should limit pollution from motor fuels and invest in clean, modern, and accessible transportation options. That’s because motor fuels are the largest source of climate pollution, and we all spend too much time and money sitting in congested, unsafe traffic.
Governor Charles Baker and many legislative and business leaders, urban and rural communities, and stakeholders across the political spectrum support the Transportation and Climate Initiative that would cap vehicle emissions and raise money for clean transportation solutions.
Opponents seem to be mostly dirty energy companies and well-funded allies, happy to keep profiting by polluting our communities and climate as they take your hard-earned dollars out of the Commonwealth and region.
By working together with other states to limit pollution and invest in modern transportation we will create jobs, save families and businesses money, and improve commuting. Such a policy will also save lives and help protect our climate. We must ensure communities that have suffered the most from pollution, and have the least access to clean and safe transportation options, are first in line for investment and benefits.
If anything, clean transportation policies must be even more ambitious than what states have proposed so far. Reducing pollution from motor fuels only 20 to 25 percent by 2032 falls far short of the Commonwealth’s climate protection requirements, and a stronger program means more jobs and wealth for communities.
While the state’s popular incentive for electric vehicles was just restarted and must be continued, communities should switch to electric buses, deploy infrastructure to enable more telecommuting, support more affordable housing near work and transportation hubs, and make transit more accessible. These policies will increase prosperity and make our homes, businesses, and communities better places to live and work. Funding generated from the TCI — fuel distributors would need to purchase pollution permits — can help make that happen.
We can’t let fear-mongering by dirty energy companies and their allies prevent our communities from building a modern, clean, accessible transportation future. Baker and his fellow governors should finalize a strong and just regional policy to limit climate pollution from motor fuels in 2020.
David F. DeCoste
State representative, Norwell Republican
Beacon Hill has been abuzz lately over the possibility that Massachusetts may enter into an agreement with 11 other states known as the Transportation and Climate Initiative. If enacted, TCI would result in the creation of an interstate bureaucracy tasked with tracking the sale of carbon credits to fuel wholesalers, who would then pass on the cost of those credits to consumers. It would operate just like a gas tax on both gasoline and diesel.
Estimates of the initial increase in the per gallon cost of gasoline range as high as 17 cents, and that’s just the beginning. As the emissions cap is lowered, prices would continue to go up without so much as a vote of the Legislature.
TCI’s aim is to reduce carbon emissions by dramatically driving up the cost of motor fuel. But even TCI administrators admitted that if none of the 11 states enter into TCI, emissions will still decrease by 19 percent over the next decade with current policies in place. So despite its significant financial cost, TCI would only decrease emissions an additional 1 to 6 percent, based on that estimate. The practical effect on our climate would be almost undetectable.
Fuel taxes are regressive, meaning they fall more heavily on low income families. The most hard-hit communities in Massachusetts will be rural and suburban families who do not have a strong public transportation infrastructure. Even if you don’t drive, every product and good is delivered by a truck, and TCI will increase those costs dramatically.
There are also significant questions regarding TCI’s constitutionality. The Massachusetts Constitution stipulates that “all money bills shall originate in the House of Representatives.” Only the Legislature can raise and spend taxes. Under TCI, a program administered by unelected regional bureaucrats would determine the cost of gasoline and diesel taxes and the governor would have the authority to spend the money outside of the Legislature.
This is wrong. Governor Charles Baker and I have a strong working relationship, but he would be wise to bring TCI before the Legislature for an open and transparent debate. A bill I have filed, which has bipartisan support, hopes to do just that.
This is not a scientific survey. Please vote only once.
As told to Globe correspondent John Laidler. To suggest a topic, please contact email@example.com.