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Obama Quietly Signs bill shielding airlines from carbon fees in Europe
5 years ago

President Obama has signed into law a bill that requires U.S. airlines be excluded from European carbon emissions fees.

Environmentalists had framed the bill as the first test of the president's commitment to fighting climate change in his second term and urged him to veto it. Obama quietly signed it Tuesday over their objections.

"The Obama administration is firmly committed to reducing harmful carbon pollution from civil aviation both domestically and internationally, but, as we have said on many occasions, the application of the EU [Emissions Trading System] to non-EU air carriers is the wrong way to achieve that objective," a White House spokesman said in a statement to The Hill. 

The spokesman said the Obama administration will work to address airline emissions at the "the appropriate multilateral forum — the International Civil Aviation Organization."

The U.S. airline industry lobbied heavily for passage of the legislation, arguing that the European Union rules were unfair because they would have been applied to the entire length of flights to European destinations, not just the time spent in EU airspace. 

Under the emissions trading system, airlines would have had to trade credits for pollution emitted by flights in a system that is similar to cap-and-trade proposals that environmentalists have pushed in the United States. 

Earlier this month, the EU put the emission fees on hold for a year to buy time for a global agreement on aviation emissions. The rules were not frozen for airlines in the EU, however.

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), a Democratic sponsor of the bill exempting U.S. airlines from the fees, said Obama's decision to sign the bill was a win for airline customers. 

“It never made a bit of sense for European governments to tax our citizens for flying over our own airspace — and with the passage of this law we’ve got the tools we need to prevent it from happening and protect American jobs,” she said in a statement.

McCaskill's Republican co-sponsor on the bill, Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), said it will shield American carriers from an "illegal tax."

“American sovereignty will no longer be threatened by the E.U.’s illegitimate and disingenuous ‘environmental’ tax on our country,” Thune said in a statement. “My bill will ensure that we protect U.S. air carriers and passengers from this illegal tax, freeing up billions of dollars that can instead be invested in creating jobs, modernizing or purchasing new aircraft and stimulating our own economy." 

Airlines had said they would have had to make their first payments in the EU emissions system in the spring of 2013. The rules, which were first applied to the aviation industry this year, called for airlines to reduce their emissions from 2006 levels by 3 percent by 2013 and 5 percent by 2020.

The White House had been under pressure from environmental groups to veto the bill. Those advocates want Obama to address climate change more forcefully in his second term, and said the emissions bill provided an opportunity to chart a new course.

The New York-based Environmental Defense Fund called the emissions ban "[a]t best ... simply superfluous" when it was approved by lawmakers earlier this fall. 

But the World Wildlife Fund adopted a more measured tone on Tuesday. 

“WWF called for a veto of this bill and we are disappointed that it passed," WWF Director of International Climate Policy Keya Chatterjee said in a statement. 

"However, there is a silver lining here — the administration has appointed high level representatives to pursue a global solution for aviation and climate," Chatterjee said. "The White House now must endorse a global, market-based measure to rein in carbon pollution from aviation. If they do, we are optimistic that the U.S. can work with ICAO to develop a package of policies that will reduce our share of global emissions.”

The industry group Airlines for America said the law will allow carriers to reduce emissions through international agreements. 

"With the President’s signature today, the United States has sent an unequivocal signal to the EU and the world that while the illegal and unilaterally-imposed EU ETS is the wrong way to proceed, there is a steadfast commitment to the right way — a global sectoral approach at the international level,” A4A President Nicholas Calio said.

“Working within the framework of the International Civil Aviation Organization, the United States will continue to lead the effort to secure a policy that will meet the twin goals of allowing for industry growth and continuing improvements in fuel efficiency and reduced emissions,” Calio continued.

5 years ago

Could the bipartisan efforts be starting and could they allow those Democrats not completely sold on Obama to join the Republicans to force Obama to cave to their demands?  This is rather interesting as he was on board to sign this prior to the election.  

I think what we might have to accept is that for the time being the only way to deal with 4 more years is to give on some things (temporarily) and push on the big issues which will force Obama and the radical element of the Democratic Congress to go with a more bipartisan decision.  I know they have been talking how raising the taxes some will allow for stronger budget cuts in entitlement programs.  Therefore, for the time being would this not be a good move?  If we can cut back spending in the entitlement areas we can then go back and address taxation and lower that.  We just have to be smarter than they are and I am beginning to think that Boehner and the Republicans might be on to something.  Since we don't have a lot of choice about Obama, it may be worth giving the Republicans a chance on this; a chance to see if they can accomplish more this way than ramming their position at the Democrats just to have Reid, et al defeat it.  The Democrats know that they won't have an incumbent and that there are a lot of people on both sides that are not excited with them; elections in 2014 are coming and they want to keep control of the Senate and regain control of the House just as much as the Republicans want to keep control of the House and gain control of the Senate; so the Democrats are going to have to get on board for bipartisan efforts or risk all they hope to gain.  The Republicans have been willing to do this all along, it is well known, therefore the pressure is more on the Democrats at this point.  So just starting to wonder if some of this might be more beneficial in the long run.

5 years ago

I agree with your assessment Linda.  They are working on a bipartisan level on some issues which would be chaotic and backfire if they did not agree upon like this one mentioned on carbon emmissions.  The environmentalists are one faction within the democratic party and they are at times way out there.  The democrats have many extremists within its party and they all try to dictate at once.   They would lose their seats in the senate. 


People want two parties in power and not one.  But, the democrats now have the senate and presidency and they will wreck as much havoc as they possibly can.  Obama and the MSM are out to taint the GOP as evil, vulture capitalists, a party that despises minorities, women, wants corporatism over ethics, etc.   This is what he will do for his 4 yrs. in office; try and diminish the party as he did with Mitt's reputation.

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