Greens pressure Obama to veto airline emissions bill

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"President Obama will start to determine his second-term approach to climate change ... as the House of Representatives sends final legislation to his desk that empowers him to bar U.S. airlines from complying with Europe’s climate law," Hurowitz wrote in a blog post on the website environmental website Grist.org.

"If he signs the bill, Obama will not only be failing to take sufficient action to address climate change, but actively going out of his way to stop another country from doing so — a pretty extreme act at the worst possible time," Hurowitz wrote.

The White House has not said whether Obama will sign the EU airline emissions ban. But Hurowitz said if he does, "President Obama would be giving New Yorkers hungry for climate action a big old extremely soggy blanket. 

"For President Obama to come in and tell ... Sandy victims that he cares more about the airline lobby than their well-being and the global climate would be an epic disappointment, and a sweeping failure for his administration and legacy," he wrote.

Supporters of the airline emissions ban offered a sharply different take, pointing to the bipartisan support for the legislation and calling for Obama to quickly sign it.

“All that’s left to prevent the European Union from unfairly taxing American citizens is the President’s signature, and I urge him to support this commonsense measure,” a Democratic co-sponsor, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), said in a statement. “European governments taxing air travel in the United States has never made a bit of sense, and it’s refreshing to be able to work across the aisle to protect American consumers from this kind of nonsense.”

McCaskill's Republican co-sponsor on the bill, Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), agreed.

“It is far past time for this assault on American sovereignty to end,”  Thune said in a statement after the final vote on the emission bill.

“While I was pleased with the announcement that the E.U. decided to temporarily suspend its unilateral emissions tax on U.S. air carriers, the E.U.’s announcement does not rule out future efforts on their behalf to tax foreign carriers," Thune continued. "My legislation is critical to protecting American sovereignty as we wait for [International Civil Aviation Organization] to reach an acceptable agreement. I call on the president to quickly sign this bipartisan bill to ensure an end to this unlawful attack on American sovereignty.”

Environmental Defense Fund lawyer Annie Petsonk countered, however, that the emissions trading ban was unnecessary and agreed it was a test for Obama.

"President Obama signaled in his reelection acceptance speech that there is an opportunity for revitalized executive branch leadership on the challenge of climate change," Petsonk said after the final House vote. "The aviation question, one of the first climate issues after the elections, puts the spotlight on the White House, which will need to put significant political muscle into helping ICAO reach agreement on a worldwide approach to address aircraft emissions."

Petsonk said of the emissions bill: "[A]t best this bill is simply superfluous. At worst, it undermines the respect that nations need to have for each other’s laws in a globalizing world,” she said.