On Tuesday, July 30th, hundreds of policymakers and stakeholders converged in Baltimore, MD to participate in the latest workshop on developing the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI).
Not familiar with TCI? Read about it here
The all-day discussion focused on “Low-Carbon Transportation Investments, Strategies, and Outcomes” through a series of panels and roundtables on topics including community needs, California’s experience, and the region’s shared vision for the transportation system of the future.
The workshop was well attended by leading environmental organizations and justice groups who have expressed a mixture of excitement and concern for how the actual policy will develop. Experts from both RGGI Inc. and the California Air Resources Board (CARB), representing the two existing cap-and-trade programs in the United States, were also in attendance to offer insights about their experience.
Attendees expressed ambitious visions for what the region’s transportation system should look like in 2030, including notions of sustainable development, public health, urban design, public transportation, and affordable housing. The breadth of expertise in the room also highlighted the dire need for new sources of revenue to achieve an ambitious vision.
Environmental Justice Concerns Still Looming
Much like the previous workshop in Newark, NJ environmental justice groups are expressing concern that a cap-and-trade policy will further contribute to the pollution inequities that exist in the region.
Their concerns are legitimate. Local air pollutants are well-documented to create inequitable health outcomes in low-income communities and communities of color. In transportation, co-pollutants come out of the tailpipes of diesel trucks, a fuel source which presumably will be covered by the TCI program. If TCI’s final policy fails to address this issue, it will continue to see resistance from these groups.
Up Next: Real Policy Scenarios
Despite the visions and concerns shared on Tuesday, a lot of work remains ahead to construct an actual policy. Following the workshop, policymakers conducted a closed-door meeting to review and discuss the data results of a business-as-usual projection of what transportation emissions will be in the region absent a TCI policy.
Those results will be shared publicly on an August 8th webinar, after which TCI leadership invites public input on what TCI policy scenarios to try in subsequent model runs. Concurrently, several TCI states are conducting in-state listening sessions to hear directly from community groups and constituents on what TCI should look like.
This serves as a flagship moment in how ambitious TCI will actually be. With the projected emissions set, states can now negotiate and experiment with the technical design choices that will ultimately decide the program’s effectiveness, including its ability to address environmental justice concerns.
The states still plan on finalizing a policy by the end of the year, which is an extremely tight deadline to complete model scenario runs, draft an initial policy, receive public input, and negotiate a final proposal.