Nine states and DC move forward on transportation carbon pricing alliance

By Eric Sundquist

Nine Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states, plus the District of Columbia, announced Tuesday that they would design a joint climate strategy over the next year and then put it up for state-by-state adoption.

The policy will, according to the joint announcement, “reduce carbon emissions from the combustion of transportation fuels through a cap-and-invest program or other pricing mechanism, and allow each … jurisdiction to invest proceeds from the program into low-carbon and more resilient transportation infrastructure.”

The policy will take effect “after a critical mass of Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states have completed the legal processes to implement the agreed upon pricing mechanism.”

Participating states are Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Virginia. The District of Columbia is also participating.

The agreement follows several years of exploration and listening sessions organized by the jurisdictions via the Georgetown Law School-based Transportation and Climate Initiative.

A cap-and-invest program sets a cap on emissions that matches policy goals and that may decrease over time. Polluters must obtain “allowances” for emissions within that cap. If a state charges polluters for allowances, it then has revenues to invest in carbon-reducing programs and projects.

A cap-and-invest program targeting electric generating plants, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, went into effect in the Northeast in 2009. It covers a footprint that is similar, but not exactly the same as that of the transportation program: Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

Eric Sundquist is Director of SSTI.