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Fri, Jun 08, 2012

US Remains Firmly Opposed To EU Emissions Trading Scheme For Airlines

ICAO Looked To For Negotiations Framework

On Wednesday, the Obama administration raised its opposition to the European law targeting aircraft emissions, and is applying greater pressure on Brussels and the UN to resolve global concerns. Both Democratic and Republican members on the Senate Commerce Committee and the Transportation Secretary spoke out against the EU’s standard.

Reuters reports that panel chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) (pictured, left) said at a hearing "The European Union acted because it believes it needed to make a bold effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and I understand why they did so. But, I believe that their unilateral action is likely not sustainable by international law. I support the goals, but I have to oppose the action."

The committee’s top Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) (pictured, right)  agreed with Rockefeller on the primary point. "The European Union, with this emissions trading scheme, is acting outside of their prerogative and most certainly will have a negative effect on our aviation community," she said. "The EU needs to step back."

A number of other countries have spoken out, and there is some concern that the dispute could trigger a global trade fight.

Discussion at the hearing turned to the bill introduced by Senators John Thune (R-SD) and Clarie McCaskill (D-MO) prohibiting U.S. airlines from complying with the EU ETS. McCaskill told Transportation Secretary Ray  LaHood that “It would be helpful if administration let us know why they don’t support our legislation.”

One form of action proposed by Congress is to take the dispute to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in what is termed an “Article 84” action. When asked by Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA) if President Obama was considering this possibility, LaHood (pictured) said there is “still debate within the administration.”

LaHood called Europe "The Lone Ranger" for unilaterally imposing the measure in January and said the administration again would "strongly urge" it to cease the law's application. "We need to see real signs of flexibility from the EU," LaHood said. The Obama administration has threatened unspecified action in the event that a compromise cannot be reached, but Secretary LaHood said no decision had been made on what steps to take. U.S. and European officials have met to try to defuse tensions and push the United Nation's International Civil Aviation Organization to establish a negotiations framework. "I believe they have the capacity to really begin the discussion," LaHood said. "There needs to be a starting point."

FMI: www.commerce.senate.gov/public

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