The legislature’s Environment Committee today voted 21-11 to pass a bill authorizing Connecticut to participate in the Transportation and Climate Initiative, an multi-state initiative that would require gasoline producers to purchase carbon credits at auction.
Although the program was originally meant to include 12 states and Washington D.C., thus far only Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Washington D.C. have signed onto the controversial program that would funnel auction proceeds toward reducing transportation emissions but also raise the price at the pump.
Gov. Ned Lamont has been pushing TCI as a potential solution to Connecticut’s Special Transportation Fund problems by using the funds to help support public transportation costs, but a significant portion of the funds would be directed toward communities that have been overburdened by the effects of car emissions.
The effect on gasoline prices has raised public doubts and skepticism. Exactly how much the auctions would affect gas prices is a matter of debate.
Gov. Lamont says the initial price surge would be limited to 5 to 9 cents per gallon by using a cost containment reserve. Initial estimates by TCI placed the first-year price increase at 17 cents per gallon.
However, during debate on the bill, Environment Committee Chair Sen. Christine Cohen, D-Guilford, confirmed that subsequent price increases could reach 26 cents per gallon by 2032 as the emissions cap is lowered after being asked about matter by Rep. Stephen Harding, R-Brookfield.
The TCI program is meant to help the state meet its goal of reducing emissions by 50 percent. TCI claims the program will reduce emissions by 26 percent by 2032, however the initiative has also noted that emissions are expected to naturally decline by 24 percent as efficiency standards and technology improves.
Debate over the TCI legislation ranged from whether the funds would be protected from “raids” or “diversions” to whether or not TCI constitutes a “tax.”
“We are voting today to implement a gas tax. That is truly what this is,” Harding said. “I just don’t see how we can be implementing this kind of gas tax on our constituents at this time.”
“We already pay some of the highest electricity rates in the United States, we pay the highest gas tax in New England,” said Rep. Patrick Callahan, R-New Fairfield. “I have numerous concerns trying to legislate the way people behave. What’s next? Are we going to tax them to not eat red meat? I don’t think this is what we should be doing.”
Cohen said TCI is not meant to change behavior but is a cap and invest program.
“We’re not looking to change prices at the pump to disincentivize use of combustible engines or disincentivize the purchase of gasoline,” Cohen said. “Rather we are looking to sell allowances at auction and invest the proceeds of the auction into overburdened communities, those traditionally underserved by transportation.”
**Meghan Portfolio contributed to this article**