Ballot Question Seeking To Stop Climate-Change Carbon Fee On Fuel Clears Attorney General Review

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Supporters of a ballot petition seeking to scuttle a proposed carbon fee on fuel can bring the question before Massachusetts voters if they get enough signatures, the state Attorney General said.

The petition, called “An Act Preserving Consumer Access To Gasoline and Other Motor Fuels,” seeks to defeat Governor Charlie Baker’s Transportation and Climate Initiative, which would add a carbon fee on fuel that would make gasoline and diesel more expensive at the pump, with the revenue to go toward improving public transportation.

Supporters of the Transportation and Climate Initiative say the program, which they call “cap and invest,” would fight climate change by limiting emissions, providing a disincentive for people to drive, and providing an incentive for people to take public transportation or buy electric cars.

Opponents say the likely increase in the cost of gasoline and diesel would hurt drivers and drive up costs of consumer goods with no justifying benefit in return.

The anti-carbon-fee petition would add the following language to state law:


The supply of gasoline, diesel fuel, special fuels or similar motor fuels available to meet consumer demand shall not be reduced or restricted by the imposition of any tax, fee, other revenue generating mechanism, or market-based compliance mechanism.


Maura Healey, the Massachusetts Attorney General, certified the petition on Wednesday, September 1, which means she found that it passes constitutional muster to go to the voters.

A series of hurdles await supporters, the hardest of which is collecting at least 80,239 signatures of registered voters in Massachusetts by November 17, 2021 – in hopes of making the statewide general election ballot in November 2022.

Signers of the petition include state Representative David DeCoste (R-Norwell), state Representative Nicholas Boldyga (R-Southwick), state Representative Colleen Garry (D-Dracut), and former state representative Geoff Diehl, a Whitman Republican who is running for governor in 2022.

Another signer is Paul Craney, spokesman for the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance, a conservative watchdog group on Beacon Hill. He hailed certification of the petition by the Attorney General’s office, which allows supporters to begin the mammoth task of collecting enough signatures to put it on the ballot.

“We are pleased to learn that Massachusetts voters moved one step closer to having the final say on this important question. The TCI ballot question would allow ordinary residents to decide if the state should artificially limit the supply of gasoline and diesel fuels in order to increase fuel costs with hopes to drive down usage. This scenario is only appealing for a few people. Unfortunately, those same people have been making many of the decisions for the state,” Craney said in a written statement Wednesday.

The governor’s press office could not be reached for comment.

Opponents of the Transportation and Climate Initiative have criticized the substance of the proposal and also the process Governor Baker is using to try to implement it — administration officials have said the governor doesn’t need approval from the state Legislature because he already has the authority to do it from the state’s Global Warming Solutions Act of 2008.

Craney said the ballot initiative would help bring a more democratic element to the policy process.

“A bi-partisan group of citizens took the first step to bring TCI before the voters of Massachusetts in 2022. The people that will feel the most pressure of the price increases and shortages that will result from TCI deserve a voice in this process,” Craney said. “Drivers should be free to make their own decisions and TCI should never restrict the amount of gasoline Massachusetts consumers can use.”

Transportation for Massachusetts, a coalition of mostly left-of-center advocacy groups that support the Transportation and Climate Initiative, criticized the petition that seeks to stop it.

“This poorly drafted, overly broad petition could threaten any policy or revenue source designed to eliminate pollution from transportation. That includes both existing revenue sources and potential future policies which benefit families and communities most burdened by transportation pollution,” Transportation for Massachusetts said in a written statement Wednesday. “We are confident that if this petition makes it onto the ballot, Massachusetts voters will join Governor Baker, other elected officials, civic leaders and advocates in opposing this ballot question.”

The Transportation and Climate Initiative began as a proposed partnership among 12 states and the District of Columbia, stretching from Maine to Virginia.

Support has dwindled during the past couple of years, however, as states have dropped out, citing concerns about predicted increases in the cost of gasoline.

In December 2020, the governors of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut and the mayor of Washington D.C. signed a memorandum of understanding to try to implement the scheme. In June 2021, Connecticut dropped the proposal from budget talks, though state leaders have not given up on the idea altogether.

As of now, Massachusetts still plans to implement the policy in 2023.

Estimates of the added costs of gas and diesel from the Transportation and Climate Initiative vary.

A December 2020 study produced by the Beacon Hill Institute (and funded by Fiscal Alliance Foundation, which opposes the Transportation and Climate Initiative) found that the proposed carbon fee on fuel would increase the price of gasoline in Massachusetts by about 18 cents a gallon and the price of diesel by about 36 cents a gallon.


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