Biden admin green-lights NYC climate plan, sparking Dem civil war

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The Biden administration approved a plan late last week backed by New York state leaders to charge commuters an increased fee to enter Manhattan in an effort to reduce congestion and improve the city’s air quality.

The so-called congestion pricing plan — green-lit Friday afternoon by the Transportation Department’s Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) — has received support from New York Gov. Kathy Hochul and New York City Mayor Eric Adams, but has faced fierce opposition from fellow Democrat New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and a wide coalition of bipartisan federal lawmakers.

“Today’s decision by the U.S. Department of Transportation to allow New York’s congestion pricing plan to move forward is unfair and ill-advised,” Murphy said in a statement. “The Administration’s decision to move forward without a true environmental impact study undercuts some of the Administration’s own long-term goals, including the Justice40 initiative.”

President Biden’s Justice40 initiative is a part of his environmental justice agenda, requiring 40% of certain federal investments to flow to disadvantaged communities that are “marginalized, underserved, and overburdened by pollution.”

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“Since day one, I’ve stood against the disproportionate negative impacts of congestion pricing on New Jerseyans – a greater financial burden on New Jersey commuters, double tolling, toll shopping, a lack of revenue for NJ TRANSIT, outsized environmental burdens on certain North Jersey communities, and financial impacts on the Port Authority’s capital budget,” Murphy continued. 

“Everyone in the region deserves access to more reliable mass transit, but placing an unjustified financial burden on the backs of hardworking New Jersey commuters is wrong,” the New Jersey governor added. “Simply put, it is a money grab.”

Murphy said his administration would closely assess all legal options.

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In addition, a bipartisan group of bipartisan lawmakers led by Democratic Rep. Mikie Sherrill and joined by Democratic Reps. Frank Pallone, Bill Pascrell, Donald Payne and Bonnie Watson Coleman argued in a letter to Hochul last week that the congestion pricing plan is an “unfair hit against New Jersey families” that will double the toll tax 400,000 New Jersey commuters pay.

Rep. Ritchie Torres, D-N.Y., separately said that while he supports the concept of a congestion pricing plan, the current proposal would increase pollution. He argued the plan forces traffic into the Bronx and said the New York City borough shouldn’t be treated as a “dumping ground for Manhattan’s diesel truck traffic.”

Hochul and Adams

And Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J., added the FHWA was doing the New York state government’s “bidding” after it published its approval Friday. Gottheimer and Rep. Mike Lawler, R-N.Y., introduced legislation earlier this year that would strip federal funding from infrastructure projects in New York unless the state exempted commuters from all congestion pricing fees. 

“The U.S. Department of Transportation has ignored serious environmental impacts by moving to the next step with New York’s and the MTA’s cash-grabbing Congestion Tax,” Gottheimer said in a statement. “By the MTA’s own admission, their Congestion Tax plan would increase air pollution in New Jersey this year and until 2045.”

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In a letter to New York officials Friday, the FHWA approved the release of the proposal’s final environmental assessment, one of the final hurdles the project faced. The agency said it determined the assessment met the statutory threshold to move forward.

Under the plan, which the state is planning to begin implementing in less than 12 months, commuters entering midtown or downtown Manhattan could be hit with a fee of up to $23 during peak hours and up to $12 during nighttime hours. The program is projected to boost state revenue by about $1 billion.

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 8: Taxi cabs cross 42nd Steet as the sun rises on December 8, 2022, in New York City. (Photo by Gary Hershorn/Getty Images)

“Governor Hochul is committed to implementing congestion pricing to reduce traffic, improve air quality, and support our public transit system,” John Lindsay, a spokesperson for Gov. Hochul, told Fox News Digital on Monday. “We’ve worked closely with partners across government and with community members over the last four years to develop a plan that will achieve these goals.”

“The finding of legal sufficiency is a critical step that will allow our Environmental Assessment to be publicly available for anyone to read, and we will continue to work with our partners to move congestion pricing forward,” Lindsay continued.

New York City Mayor Adams similarly touted the FHWA action.

“The federal government has given congestion pricing another green light, and we’re ready to get it done right,” he tweeted. This is about more than reducing traffic. We’ll invest in our transit system and clean up the air in the most polluted communities. We won’t leave them behind.”

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