R.I. has No Plan to Reduce Transportation Emissions — ecoRI News

Act on Climate mandates nearly impossible to meet without addressing transportation sector

By ROB SMITH/ecoRI News staff

PROVIDENCE — Rhode Island lawmakers are going into the new legislative session with no clear plan to reduce transportation-sector emissions, after neighboring states pulled out of the regional Transportation & Climate Initiative (TCI) late last year.

Rep. Terri Cortvriend, D-Portsmouth, confirmed last week she would not be reintroducing the Transportation Emissions and Mobile (TEAM) Community Act this session or any alternative legislation to tackle vehicle emissions.

“We’re hoping to come up with an alternative,” she said.

Cortvriend introduced the TEAM Act with Sen. Alana DiMario, D-North Kingstown, last year. The bill passed the Senate but stalled in the House Finance Committee. The legislation would have raised $20 million annually for cleaner transit projects, with 35 percent of all funds dedicated toward communities hit hardest by transportation emissions.

The bill was intended to complement the Act on Climate legislation and provide a mechanism for reaching the law’s ambitious goals. Rhode Island has a benchmark goal of reducing statewide climate emissions to 45 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. Transportation-sector emissions account for 36 percent of the state’s total greenhouse gas emissions. TCI advocates estimate the compact could reduce those emissions by 26 percent across the region.

But TCI requires at least three participating jurisdictions, a feat that became impossible last fall after the governors of Connecticut and Massachusetts announced their states no longer supported the program, citing either uncooperative legislatures or rising gasoline prices.

The program as proposed requires fuel suppliers to buy allowances for the carbon produced by their products, which was expected to raise about $3 billion over the next 10 years for participating governments.

With no similar legislation expected during the 2022 General Assembly session, the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management is expected to take a lead role in reducing transportation-sector emissions. Acting agency director Terry Gray has pledged to analyze the federal infrastructure bill for funds to reduce emissions.

“We will have serious difficulty meeting the new law’s reduction mandates without a strong commitment and plan to reduce emissions from the transportation sector,” Gray said in November.

State legislators aren’t deterred.

“We are optimistic it will come back around again after the election, if we are fortunate to win re-election,” Cortvriend said. “We hope the landscape changes because so many people put so much time into that.”

The 2022 General Assembly session is scheduled to begin Jan. 4.

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