TCI talking points and sample comment letter are now available

We’ve made it easy for you to submit a comment about the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI). Find talking points and a sample letter in this post.

On December 17, 2019, Vermont joined other New England and mid-Atlantic states, along with Washington, D.C., in issuing a draft Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the Transportation & Climate Initiative (TCI).

While insufficient as outlined to address the scope of emissions coming from the transportation sector, the MOU is nonetheless a long-awaited and potentially significant step forward that will foster a more diverse, clean transportation network, including raising revenues to invest in strategies that serve low-income and rural Vermonters. Read the full press release here, which includes Vermont organizations’ reactions to the MOU.

TCI states are planning and beginning to implement a range of activities to ensure that their final proposed policy reflects further input from diverse stakeholders, rigorous technical analysis, and consultation with leading experts.

TCI invites you to share your input during a 60-day comment period. Use this form. All material submitted through the form will inform the participating jurisdictions in the regional policy design process. The comment period closes on February 28, 2020. Below, find tips for filling out the comment form, and a suggested template for the comment itself.

Sample comment letter

Tips:

  • Under “Affiliation,” identify yourself by your organization/profession, but also (if you wish) as a concerned resident, activist, mother, father, grandmother, grandfather, or however else you identify. Include as many affiliations as you want; the field doesn’t seem to be character-limited.
  • The comment field itself allows 10,000 characters, including spaces. That’s a lot of space. It doesn’t mean your comment should ramble on; brief is best. But do feel free to express yourself. There is room! You also have the option of attaching a document that contains your comments, if you would prefer.

Suggested comment template:

  • Introduction: Open with who you are and how you’re involved. You already noted this in “Affiliation,” but it’s helpful to reiterate how you’re connected to the issue and what you have at stake. In your introduction, also be sure to include a strong declaration in support of TCI. For instance:

Through my work at X organization, I am responsible for ensuring a cleaner transportation future for my constituents/members/seniors in Vermont. Vermont’s largest source of carbon pollution comes from the transportation sector, accounting for 44% of Vermont’s climate pollution. That is unacceptable.

I urge Vermont to participate in the Transportation and Climate Initiative so that all Vermonters, including my young grandchildren, live in a world where they do not have to choose between being able to get where they need to go and polluting the planet irreparably.  

  • Talking points tailored to you/your organization: Show the readers that you are aware of what TCI is and that you take seriously the opportunity it provides. Use some of our talking points, below. Here is a good place to demand that the policy has a strong component of equity, as resonates with your organization (or with you personally — speak to those affiliations!). Share an anecdote if you wish to tie the policy into the personal. For example:

Vermont, like other states, desperately needs additional funding to create innovative, equitable transportation options for all, including seniors/people with disabilities/people with low incomes, for whom transportation costs and accessibility are an added burden. TCI can provide this support.

As an individual who uses a wheelchair/as an advocate for low-income families/as someone who works with seniors in Vermont, I see the extreme need for increased accessibility. We might be a rural state, but that is no excuse for expecting people to rely solely on personal vehicles, which are costly to operate and have limitations for many, in addition to being high polluters. 

In my work with senior citizens in Vermont, I have seen firsthand the devastation older individuals feel when they can no longer drive. The devastation spreads outward: When seniors remain at home because they can’t easily get around, they face an increased risk of isolation and loneliness, and lack the ability to get medical care on a regular basis, patronize local businesses, or socialize in their communities. A lack of reliable transportation options can have a negative effect on entire rural towns.

  • Policy talking points: Let the readers know you’re alert and watching; you know this is an important policy, and you know where it came from.

As you know, Vermont’s participation in a cap and invest program is not new. Under Governor Jim Douglas, Vermont joined the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) in 2008. This cap and invest program covers the electric sector in the Northeast, and it has proven very successful, reducing consumer costs and carbon pollution from the power sector by 40%. 

Vermont has strategically invested the revenues raised from RGGI, directing the $2 million annually into weatherization programs that help Vermonters stop wasting energy and save money. We know this type of project works — there is no excuse not to adopt TCI as well.

  • Conclusion: Make an explicit call for Vermont to formally join TCI. Be passionate! Make it personal; share another anecdote if you wish. Express gratitude to the readers for the efforts they’ve made so far.

TCI provides the opportunity to tackle the biggest problem of our day — climate change — by reducing emissions in our state’s most carbon-intensive sector, while diverting funds into much-needed transportation infrastructure that will benefit all.

We can either seize this opportunity to make monumental progress and have a chance to prosper in a clean energy future, or accept a status quo that is only becoming more and more difficult for Vermonters and more harmful to our environment.

I urge Vermont to formally join TCI so we can create a clean energy future that works better for everyone, especially our most vulnerable. Thank you for the work you’ve done so far to advance TCI across the region. 


Talking points

VNRC has prepared talking points to help guide your comment to TCI:

  • Transportation is Vermont’s highest source of carbon emissions, accounting for 44% of the state’s climate pollution.
  • Vermont’s participation in a cap and invest program is not new. Under Governor Jim Douglas, Vermont joined the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) in 2008. This cap and invest program covers the electric sector in the Northeast, and it has proven very successful, reducing consumer costs and carbon pollution from the power sector by 40 percent.
  • Vermont has strategically invested the revenues raised from RGGI, directing the $2 million annually into weatherization programs that help Vermonters stop wasting energy and save money.
  • Revenues from cap and invest programs, like RGGI, can help grow the economy. Energy efficiency services are a strong component of our fast-growing clean energy jobs sector, where thousands of Vermonters are earning a good living helping people retrofit their leaky homes.
  • Despite strong support for climate action and tri-partisan supported climate goals, Vermont’s greenhouse gas emissions have risen, with the largest percentage of emissions – almost 50 percent – coming from the transportation sector.
  • A well designed cap and invest program, like a strong TCI, could serve as the lever we currently lack to require emissions reductions in the carbon-intensive transportation system.
  • The Northeast and Mid Atlantic’s transportation system is inextricably interconnected. An adaptable, shared framework like TCI and cap and invest will ensure all states participate in achieving emissions reductions, while enabling states to direct revenues raised from the program to serve the unique transportation needs of their residents.
  • While doing our part to reduce pollution in the transportation sector, Vermont could strategically and equitably – demographically and geographically – invest those dollars in transportation solutions that serve Vermont and Vermonters well. Designing programs and solutions that serve rural regions well, as well as investing in bus, bike, pedestrian and housing solutions in and around downtowns, is possible and essential.
  • The impacts of climate change, which include more intense storms, heavier rain and snowfalls, frequent flooding and increased public health risks, including from a dramatic rise in tickborne disease, represent an urgent threat to communities, our economy, public health and people’s quality of life. To tackle climate change, we must reduce emissions in our most carbon-intensive sector: Transportation. TCI offers the greatest opportunity at this pivotal moment in human history for the Northeast to act collectively to significantly reduce pollution.
  • TCI offers a great opportunity to improve mobility and make meaningful reductions in carbon pollution at a regional scale. A comprehensive approach like cap and invest can improve equity by helping to make clean, efficient, cost effective transportation available to everyone.

To further inform Vermont’s participation and program development under TCI, Transportation for Vermonters (T4VT) has developed the following guiding principles for the investment of TCI revenue:

●  Investments should be aligned with the overall goals of the initiative, including “reducing climate changing pollution, creating economic opportunity, and improving transportation equity for currently underserved and overburdened populations.”

●  Investments should consider both short and long term strategies to dramatically reduce emissions now while shifting our systems of land use and transportation.

● Investments should support programs, policies, and solutions that will directly reduce vehicle miles traveled and car dependence without limiting mobility.

●  Investments should promote connectivity between and among a variety of transportation modes, befitting Vermont’s rural context. Different solutions will be needed in different communities; an openness to a variety of right-sized solutions is essential.

●  TCI proceeds must not be spent to backfill budgets for roads, bridges, general funds, or even other needed climate solutions like weatherization or thermal fuel switching.

This post was originally published on December 19, 2019, and updated on January 28, 2020.