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Democrats call for pollution reduction requirements in any aid for airlines, cruises

Democrats call for pollution reduction requirements in any aid for airlines, cruises
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A group of eight Democratic senators says that any possible aid for airlines and cruises that are dealing with the fallout from the coronavirus should include requirements that these industries act in a way that is more environmentally friendly.

“Given the poor environmental records of some companies in these industries, we believe that any such financial assistance should be paired with requirements that companies act in a more responsible fashion,” the senators wrote in their Wednesday letter to House and Senate leadership.

“Air travel currently accounts for approximately 2.5 percent of total carbon dioxide emissions globally, and commercial aviation emissions are expected to triple by 2050. The foreign-flagged cruise industry has a checkered environmental record and most passenger liners burn heavy fuel oil, one of the dirtiest fuels,” they added. 

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Providing financial assistance to airlines has been discussed in Congress, and President TrumpDonald TrumpDemocrats, activists blast reported Trump DOJ effort to get journalists' phone records Arizona secretary of state gets security detail over death threats surrounding election audit Trump admin got phone records of WaPo reporters covering Russia probe: report MORE has expressed support for giving a boost to both the airline and cruise industries.

The Democrats on Wednesday described this as an opportunity to help the environment.

“Given the large carbon footprint of commercial aviation, requiring reductions in carbon emissions would represent a major step in curbing our nation’s greenhouse gas emissions. Requiring reductions in carbon pollution from foreign-flagged cruise ships, as well as reductions in other air pollutants and increased penalties for illegal dumping, would result in cleaner air and a healthier ocean,” they wrote.

“If we give the airline and cruise industries assistance without requiring them to be better environmental stewards, we would miss a major opportunity to combat climate change and ocean dumping,” they added.

The letter was signed by Democratic Sens. Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseJudge's decision on Barr memo puts spotlight on secretive DOJ office On The Money: Incomes, consumer spending soared in March | Harris, senators work behind scenes on jobs package | Biden cancels some border wall construction Harris, senators work behind scenes on jobs package MORE (R.I.), Martin HeinrichMartin Trevor HeinrichSenate votes to nix Trump rule limiting methane regulation Senate Democrats push Biden over raising refugee cap Democrats battle over best path for Puerto Rico MORE (N.M.), Ed MarkeyEd MarkeyCivilian Climate Corps can help stem rural-urban divide Senate votes to nix Trump rule limiting methane regulation Senate Democrats push Biden over raising refugee cap MORE (Mass.), Jeff MerkleyJeff MerkleySenate Democrats push Biden over raising refugee cap Bipartisan Senate group calls for Biden to impose more sanctions on Myanmar junta A proposal to tackle congressional inside trading: Invest in the US MORE (Ore.), Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Debbie StabenowDeborah (Debbie) Ann StabenowThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Emergent BioSolutions - House GOP drama intensifies; BIden sets new vax goal Overnight Health Care: Biden sets goal of at least one shot to 70 percent of adults by July 4 | White House to shift how it distributes unallocated vaccines to states The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Emergent BioSolutions - Can Cheney defy the odds and survive again? MORE (Mich.), Tina SmithTina Flint SmithSenate Democrats push Biden over raising refugee cap Sharpton eulogizes Daunte Wright: 'Tags of racism' have expired Hawley votes against anti-Asian hate crime bill MORE (Minn.) and Cory BookerCory BookerBush testifies before Congress about racist treatment Black birthing people face during childbirth, pregnancy Tim Scott sparks buzz in crowded field of White House hopefuls Never underestimate Joe Biden MORE (N.J.).

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A spokesperson for industry group Cruise Lines International Association pushed back on the senators' characterization in a statement to The Hill, saying, "The cruise industry has always been a leader in responsible tourism, including its commitment to environmental sustainability."

"These are unprecedented times for our entire community, including the tens of thousands of small and medium-sized businesses, many of them travel agents, who rely on the cruise industry for their livelihoods. We are committed to seeing our partners in the industry through this crisis and we are looking to Congress for their support for this critical community as well," the spokesperson said.

Some of these lawmakers have previously expressed support for making this assistance conditional. 

“Carbon offsets should be a condition for any such bailouts,” Whitehouse tweeted Tuesday afternoon. “Airlines that want public support should live public values.” 

On Monday, the airline industry asked the government for more than $50 billion in aid, as it has seen a decrease in customers amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Others, including Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerBiden to meet with 6 GOP senators next week The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Emergent BioSolutions - Upbeat jobs data, relaxed COVID-19 restrictions offer rosier US picture How to fast-track climate action? EPA cutting super pollutant HFCs MORE (D-N.Y.), have pushed back on this for a different reason, saying aid should go to workers instead of major companies.