House looks to reject European emissions rules for US airlines

The House on Monday will consider legislation that would prohibit U.S. airlines from participating in the European Union's Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), which will soon require any airline operating in Europe to pay for its carbon emissions.

The bipartisan bill, H.R. 2594, is a response to the failure of Europe to delay or cancel its plans to start charging U.S. airlines next year for any flights originating or terminating in Europe. Supporters of the bill say the rule change would cost airlines hundreds of millions of dollars in increased costs starting in 2012, and that the ETS is an extra-territorial requirement Europe is imposing on U.S. carriers without any agreement from the U.S.

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"The unilateral imposition of the ETS is a clear violation of international law," House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) said last month. "We want to let the European Union know that we are not going to support this scheme and that we want a positive outcome by working with the international community."

Aside from Mica, the bill is sponsored by committee ranking member Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.), and the leaders of the Aviation subcommittee, Reps. Tom Petri (R-Wis.) and Jerry Costello (D-Ill.).

This bipartisan support — and the voice-vote approval of the bill in committee last month — augurs well for House passage under a suspension of the rules on Monday, which requires a two-thirds majority vote.

According to a committee report accompanying the bill, the U.S. objected to the ETS last June, but Europe has not responded. In 2009, American, United and Continental Airlines sued Europe over the scheme, and arguments before the European Court of Justice began last July.

Under the ETS, airline emissions allowed will equal 97 percent of the average annual emissions between 2004 and 2006. Of the total allowed emissions, 85 percent will be given to the airlines, and 15 percent will be auctioned off, thus raising the cost of any airline that operates in Europe.

In 2013, the emissions cap will fall to 95 percent of the average annual emissions from 2004 to 2006, and 20 percent of that allowance will be auctioned off.

The U.S. has argued that the ETS unfairly punishes U.S. flights by charging them for all emissions generated during a flight from the U.S. to Europe, even though only a fraction of those emissions occur over Europe.

Aside from prohibiting U.S. airlines from participating in the ETS, the bill would require the Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration to negotiate some settlement with Europe that holds "U.S. interests harmless from the scheme."