By Evan Popp
A majority of Mainers support a regional effort to limit carbon pollution from transportation and to raise funds to transition to cleaner transportation options, according to a poll released Wednesday.
The survey, conducted by Climate Nexus and the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, measured support for the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI) as well as other related issues. The TCI would create an agreement between Maine and other states in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic to cap the emissions created by transportation and to further address emissions by requiring “gasoline companies to pay for the carbon pollution produced by the fuel they sell,” with the proceeds invested in creating “cleaner, more efficient and more accessible transportation options.”
Potential ways to use funds generated by the TCI include expanding public transportation, electrification of transit fleets, electric vehicle rebates, and increasing bike and pedestrian infrastructure.
Gov. Janet Mills, a Democrat, has not yet committed Maine to the initiative. Energy News Network recently reported that a final version of the proposal is expected to be put forward by the end of the year. However, states will be allowed to join the initiative at any time.
The Yale and Climate Nexus poll found broad approval for the TCI in Maine, with 56 percent of Mainers saying they support the state participating in the initiative, 26 percent opposed and 18 percent unsure.
The poll also asked whether Mainers support using the policies in the TCI and funds that would be raised from the initiative to help with the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. A majority (57 percent) said the TCI would help the state recover from the pandemic by creating good-paying jobs and reducing air pollution while 43 percent said the TCI would be an economic burden.
In addition to showing broad support for the TCI, the poll also demonstrated that Mainers want the state to be aggressive in fighting the impacts of climate change. A majority (79 percent) said they believe it is important for Maine to reduce carbon pollution at the local level, with just 21 percent saying it isn’t important.
While people in Maine came out in support of the TCI, the margins were even higher in other states surveyed. Overall, among the 11 states surveyed (and Washington, D.C.) 71 percent supported the initiative and 70 percent said it should be part of how states recover from the pandemic.
Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, said at a news conference Wednesday that the poll was conducted at a unique time in American history.
“The nation and our region is currently confronting multiple and intersecting crises,” he said. “A devastating pandemic, a massive economic crisis, worsening climate change, critical equity and justice issues and long overdue crumbling infrastructure. This study and other research shows that a majority of Americans are hurting, and they want bold and swift action by their leaders to solve these problems.”
Alli Gold Roberts, director of the state policy program at Ceres — an organization advocating for sustainability — added that the results of the poll give state leaders a mandate to take aggressive action in combating the climate crisis.
“Now is the time for governors to show leadership in moving this program forward so TCI revenue can be invested to expand clean transportation options, put people back to work and prioritize emissions reductions in overburdened communities that are on the frontlines of vehicle pollution,” she said.
The poll comes on the heels of a report released last week by the Maine Climate Council detailing its four-year plan to combat climate change. That plan centers around decreasing greenhouse gas emissions 45 percent by 2030, 80 percent by 2050 and making the state carbon-neutral by 2045.
In its report, the Maine Climate Council also recognized the significant role that transportation plays in generating emissions, estimating that 54 percent of state’s annual greenhouse gas emissions are due to transportation. Along with other measures, the Climate Council proposed putting 41,000 light-duty electric vehicles on the road by 2025 and 219,000 by 2030 as a way to begin addressing that issue.
The Climate Council also directly acknowledged the TCI in its report, writing that its Transportation Working Group recommended that the state continue to “monitor” the initiative.
The poll on the TCI was conducted from Nov. 9 through Nov. 15 and surveyed 3,818 registered voters in Maine, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Virginia as well as Washington, D.C. The poll has a 95 percent credibility interval of plus or minus 1.6 percent.