Dear Governor Murphy,
We, the undersigned elected officials from across New Jersey, are concerned about the health, prosperity, and resiliency of the communities we represent in the wake of the global pandemic and economic crisis. We urge you to continue New Jersey’s participation in the multistate Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI) to bring needed investment dollars for sustainable infrastructure and reduce pollution in our communities; we hope New Jersey will strongly advocate for equity commitments from the other states to make the regional policy as strong as possible, and that you will sign the final MOU when it is released later this year.
Thank you for your leadership in addressing the climate emergency by signing our state’s landmark electric vehicle (EV) law, rejoining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), joining the multistate agreement to advance zero-emission heavy-duty vehicles, developing the first-of-its-kind New Jersey Wind Energy Port, supporting a vision for a 100% clean energy future articulated in the updated Energy Master Plan, and helping prepare New Jersey for climate impacts with the Coastal Resilience Plan. With the important state mandate of 80% carbon emission reductions by 2050, New Jersey is emerging as a national leader in transitioning away from harmful fossil fuels to 100 percent clean energy.
To meet these ambitious goals, we must make substantial investments across New Jersey to modernize our transportation infrastructure and reduce harmful pollution that is worsening our public health and climate emergencies.
The urgency for these investments has increased in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. As we know you are very aware, more than fifteen thousand people have lost their lives and over one million people are out of full-time work. Pollution from our transportation sector has substantially worsened the pandemic’s impacts. According to a recent Harvard study, air pollution is a major contributor to deaths from COVID-19 and is greatly compounding the current crisis. With heightened exposure to pollution, people of color are more than twice as likely to die from COVID-19.
The transportation sector makes up 42 percent of New Jersey’s greenhouse gas pollution. Yet, pollution from transportation is clearly within our power to change. Global emissions fell by 17 percent during pandemic lockdowns, with 43 percent of the decrease coming from fewer cars, buses and trucks on the roads. As we rebuild our economy, we have an opportunity to reduce our pollution, increase economic opportunity, and help drive our recovery by investing in a clean, affordable, and efficient transportation sector.
The draft policy the TCI states are discussing will generate as much as $750 million annually to invest in clean transportation projects in New Jersey. Building on and complementing RGGI, which has generated more than $155 million for our state, TCI will be a substantial new source of proceeds to support needed clean transportation projects in local communities, including transit, local bicycle and walkway projects, electric vehicle infrastructure, Safe Routes to School, and Safe Routes to Transit. TCI enables states to choose where proceeds are allocated, so not only do we have the ability to reinvest these sustainability projects at large, but we can tailor programs to specific community needs.
The program will reduce pollution and improve public health, and help make our communities cleaner and greener. According to the Georgetown Climate Center, by joining the final TCI MOU, New Jersey can help reduce regional pollution by 25 percent, prevent more than 1,000 pollution-related deaths, and generate $10 billion in reduced health costs.
New Jersey can choose to use the generated revenue to invest in projects that create multiple benefits for our communities, such as clean transit near affordable housing, safer routes to schools, and climate-resilient infrastructure. The proceeds from TCI can make this possible.
Strengthening health, prosperity, and resiliency in communities of color and economically marginalized communities must be central to any transportation investment program. We urge you to support a series of complementary policies to ensure that environmental justice principles are included in the implementation of TCI, including increased air monitoring in high-traffic areas, establishing an oversight committee of community leaders from frontline communities, and ensuring equitable investments that benefit all New Jerseyans.
The need for bold, science-based action to address the climate emergency has never been clearer. Implementing a cap and invest program for the transportation sector will help New Jersey rebuild our economy, clean our air, and address the disproportionate impacts too many communities bear.
We stand ready to work with you to build a cleaner, healthier, and more prosperous New Jersey for all.