Obama signs bill shielding US airlines from EU carbon fees

By Philip Mwakio

United States President Barack Obama has signed into law a Bill that requires American airlines be excluded from European carbon emissions fees.

The new legislation will enable the country’s transportation secretary to ‘prohibit’ US airlines from participating in the European Union’s (EU) Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), latest reports contained in Air Transport World (ATW) have indicated.

After the European Commission (EC) agreed earlier this month to temporarily suspend the ETS for flights to/from the EU, the US House of Representatives went ahead and cleared the anti-ETS bill passed by the Senate in September, moving the legislation to the president’s desk.

Obama signing the bill doesn’t start the international battle that might have ensued had he done so before the EC’s temporary back down, but the law theoretically gives the US more leverage in future negotiations.

Airlines for America president and CEO Nicholas Calio said in a statement that Obama’s signing of the bill “sent an unequivocal signal to the EU” that the ETS is “illegal and unilaterally imposed.”

He reiterated US airlines’ call for “a global sectoral approach at the international level” to regulate aircraft carbon dioxide emissions.

Aircraft emissions

The law signed by Obama states that the transportation secretary can bar US carriers from participating in the EU ETS if doing so would be ‘in the public interest’ particularly taking into account “the impacts on US consumers, US carriers and US operators; the impacts on the economic, energy and environmental security of the United States; and the impacts on US foreign relations, including existing international commitments.”

It additionally green lights the transportation secretary (currently Ray LaHood) to “take other actions under existing authorities ... to hold operators of civil aircraft of the United States harmless from the emissions trading scheme.”

The law also gives the secretary the authority to ‘reassess’ a prohibition on US airline’s participation in the ETS if the EU amends the scheme or an international agreement on aircraft emissions is reached.

US House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chairman John Mica said, “I am pleased that this measure has been signed by the president over suggestions by some environmental groups to veto the bill.

The law signed today is a clear signal that the United States will not accept the EU’s go-it-alone attempt to impose emissions taxes on other nations for activities far outside the EU’s own borders.”