Pennsylvania and eight other northeastern states have agreed to craft a regional plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles and use money from the new carbon market to invest in cleaner transportation infrastructure.
Pennsylvania Department of Transportation Secretary Leslie Richards said the agreement is a “bold initiative to reduce carbon emissions from the transportation sector,” the largest source of climate-warming greenhouse gases in the region.
Among U.S. states, only California currently has a declining cap on carbon dioxide emissions that covers the transportation sector, according to the Environmental Defense Fund, which called the regional announcement Tuesday “groundbreaking.”
Under the agreement, states from Vermont to Virginia and Washington, D.C., will work together to develop a policy over the next year, sorting out how low to cap tailpipe emissions, which fuels to cover and how to structure the market.
Each jurisdiction will then decide whether to adopt the shared plan.
The multi-state collaboration, called the Transportation and Climate Initiative, said the program will be designed “to achieve substantial reductions in transportation sector emissions and provide net economic and social benefits for participating states.”
It will be up to each participating state to decide how to spend its share of the proceeds from the “cap-and-invest” program, but the focus will be on low-carbon and resilient transportation infrastructure, such as public transit and zero-emission vehicles.
“We look forward to bolstering our efforts to make our transportation systems smarter, more efficient, better for people and better for the planet,” Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Patrick McDonnell said.
Many of the states in the initiative already collaborate as part of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a similar market-based mechanism for cutting greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. Pennsylvania does not participate in that program.
A group led by several Pennsylvania environmental attorneys recently petitioned the state’s environmental rule-making board to adopt a cap-and-trade program that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions across the Pennsylvania economy, including the transportation sector. That proposal is state-specific, but it is designed to interact with other regional carbon-cutting programs.