Cortvriend, DiMario introduce bill to implement Transportation and Climate Initiative Program
STATE HOUSE – Rep. Terri Cortvriend and Sen. Alana M. DiMario are introducing legislation to implement the Transportation and Climate Initiative Program (TCI-P) in Rhode Island.
In December, former Gov. Gina Raimondo, along with the governors of Massachusetts and Connecticut and the mayor of Washington, D.C., signed a memorandum of understanding to join the bipartisan Transportation and Climate Initiative Program (TCI-P), which will cut greenhouse gas pollution from motor vehicles in the region by an estimated 26% from 2022 to 2032, generate a total of more than $3 billion dollars over 10 years for the participating jurisdictions to invest in equitable, less polluting transportation options and to help energize economic recovery.
The legislation — named the Transportation Emissions and Mobile (TEAM) Community Act — would provide the funding the state needs to make clean transportation options available and affordable for all Rhode Islanders, while drastically reducing pollution that harms public health, particularly in urban, poorer neighborhoods that disproportionately bear the burden of transportation infrastructure like major highways.
The bill (2021-S 0872) was introduced in the Senate today, and is expected to be introduced in the House tomorrow. The timing was planned to coincide with World Asthma Day this week to call attention to its goals of drastically reducing the pollution that lead to and aggravate asthma and other medical conditions.
“Above all, this is a public health initiative. We cannot continue dumping massive amounts of pollution into the air – pollution that we know is contributing to serious and costly health problems including cancer, heart disease and asthma, particularly among the urban poor and all Rhode Islanders who live near high-congestion and high-traffic areas, which are the worst pollution sources. The more we can make clean transportation – public transit, electric vehicles and safe, useful pedestrian and bicycle routes – available and affordable to all, the healthier our air and our population will be,” said Representative Cortvriend (D-Dist. 72, Portsmouth, Middletown).
The TEAM Community Act targets the transportation sector because it is the largest source of carbon emissions, producing about 36% of greenhouse gas emissions in Rhode Island. Through the Act on Climate, signed into law last month, the state has committed to aggressively reducing its carbon output, and needs specific initiatives like TCI to achieve those goals, the sponsors said.
“There’s broad consensus that we have to drastically reduce our carbon emissions. The TEAM Community Act is the plan we need to get moving on that work. It disincentivizes pollution, while generating funding for the state to improve public transit, make communities more walkable and bike-friendly, and help enable drivers and small businesses to switch to more efficient vehicles. The only way we are going to address our climate crisis is by committing to change, and the TEAM Community Act is an exciting opportunity to get the ball rolling here in Rhode Island, with the partnership of our neighboring states,” said Senator DiMario (D-Dist. 36, Narragansett, North Kingstown).
The legislation creates the statutory framework for the Rhode Island TCI program, establishing critical authorities to promulgate regulations; create and auction carbon allowances; establish legal compliance obligations; support participation in multi-state organization, regional auctions, and regional compliance tracking systems; and establish the Equity and Environmental Justice Advisory Board.
The bill has drawn support from a host of community and environmental groups, including Acadia Center, Green Energy Consumers Alliance, Clean Water Action, Climate Action Rhode Island, Environment Council of Rhode Island and the Coalition for a Better Business Environment.
“Acadia Center applauds Rep. Cortvriend and Sen. DiMario for their leadership on the TEAM Community Act. This legislation is a critical first step to ‘Build Back Better’ in our transportation network and prepare for the future with long-term, sustainable funding of over $20 million per year. Automakers have announced a major shift towards electric vehicles; people are walking and bicycling at record levels; and, public transportation helps reduce traffic congestion and commuting costs for workers. Making strategic investments in clean mobility options will strengthen our economy, create good jobs, and deliver over $100 million in annual health benefits from cleaner air and healthier communities,” said Hank Webster, Rhode Island Director of Acadia Center.
The legislation includes provisions to ensure better environmental justice for underserved and environmentally overburdened communities, requiring that a minimum of 35 percent of all proceeds are invested in those communities through clean transportation projects and programs. The Equity and Environmental Justice Advisory Board it establishes would serve to ensure that standard is met and advocate for programs that serve those communities.
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