Reducing carbon emissions from transportation systems and creating more equal access to transportation are among the goals in a new phase of a coalition of Maryland and other states in the Mid-Atlantic region.
Maryland, along with eight other states and the District of Columbia, will move into the next phase of the Transportation and Climate Initiative, designing policies and programs to improve transportation and mobility options, address their transportation challenges, and work toward addressing the pollution and carbon emissions created by transportation.
The initiative had been in a yearlong period to collect public comment.
Maryland joins Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Washington, D.C., in the agreement.
In a statement after the announcement, Maryland Secretary of the Environment Ben Grumbles said that Gov. Larry Hogan’s (R) administration is committed to fighting climate change, and to finding creative solutions to environmental issues.
Hogan’s office did not return a request for comment.
The coalition aims to promote walking, cycling, and transit use, improve air quality, and reduce the level of emissions coming from transportation.
“Advancing low-carbon transportation solutions presents an opportunity for our region to improve the way people and goods move from place to place while addressing the threats posed by carbon and other pollution,” a statement released with the initiative’s announcement said last week.
The announcement is really exciting because it shows recognition of the need for a regional approach to solving the problem of carbon emissions, said David Smedick, campaign and policy director for the Maryland chapter of the Sierra Club.
Transportation is the largest producer of the region’s carbon pollution, and there’s a general consensus that we need to work across state lines to limit it, he said.
“We really need new policy ideas” and new initiatives to help accomplish that, he said.
The regional approach is somewhat new for transportation pollution in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast regions, but in the mid-2000s there was a regional plan to lower greenhouse gas initiatives that created a steadily lowering cap for power plants that create a good model for the transportation initiative, Smedick said.
The agreement will make sure that carbon reduction goals are met, while creating jobs and economic growth, as well as new markets for low carbon technology.
It will also look to make sure that the benefits and challenges of the program are shared in a fair way across communities, and address the needs of people who have few alternatives to driving, and to create more transportation equity for underserved populations.
As the agreement moves forward, the members will work together to create a regional policy that focuses on areas that need a consistent approach across boundaries; decide on the level at which emissions are capped; develop guidelines for monitoring and reporting emissions; develop ways to contain costs and keep compliance flexible; and find ways to encourage more transportation equity across areas.
The phase announced last week is the beginning of a long process, Smedick said.
“This is the first step of many, many more that is needed. But it’s a start,” he said.