House rejects EU aircraft emissions tax

The House passed legislation on Tuesday that prohibits U.S. airlines from paying a tax to the European Union (EU) to offset their carbon emissions.

Members debated the bill briefly Tuesday evening, and then quickly approved it by voice vote after a handful of members indicated their opposition to the EU tax.

"In my view, the EU's proposed emissions trading scheme is inconsistent with international aviation law and practice," said Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.). "It goes against international law and agreements. It brings the hand of European regulators into our own airspace."

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Members noted that just yesterday, the EU announced it would delay the application of the tax until 2014. But they said that delay is just a temporary fix, and that the House needs to act to protect U.S. airlines and jobs created by those airlines, which could be threatened by the tax.

House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) said the EU's delay was prompted in part on alleged progress on a global emissions deal at the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). But Mica said the U.S. cannot wait for an ICAO decision.

"ICAO does not set policy for the United States of America. We are a sovereign nation, and we must again, I think, defend ... our position, our sovereignty," he said. "We've got to hold people's feet to the fire in respecting also, again, U.S. sovereignty."

Opponents of the tax have said it would cost U.S. airlines more than $3 billion over the next eight years. "It was basically a… tax grab by European powers," Mica said.

Only one House member, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), spoke in opposition to the bill, on the issue of climate change.

"A warmer planet has less ice, higher sea levels, more water in the atmosphere, more powerful storms, more frequent floods, drier droughts and worse wildfires," he said.

He also cited Hurricane Sandy as evidence of a warming planet.

"This is what global warming looks like, and if we continue to ignore it, it will look far worse," he said. "We should be doing all we can to reduce carbon pollution, and slow global warming."

The House passed S. 1956, from Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), which is similar to a bill Mica sponsored last year that also passed the House. House passage sends the bill to the White House for President Obama's signature.