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 John TrumpIvanka Trump pitches Goya Foods products on Twitter Sessions defends recusal: 'I leave elected office with my integrity intact' Former White House physician Ronny Jackson wins Texas runoff 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 WhitehouseThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: California backtracks on reopening as cases soar nationwide; SoapBox CEO David Simnick says nimble firms can work around supply chain chokepoints to access supplies for sanitizers and hygienic materials Trump administration has been underestimating costs of carbon pollution, government watchdog finds OVERNIGHT ENERGY: EPA declines to tighten smog standards amid pressure from green groups | Democrats split on Trump plan to use development funds for nuclear projects| Russian mining giant reports another fuel spill in Arctic MORE (R.I.), Martin HeinrichMartin Trevor HeinrichThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: Rep. Rodney Davis says most important thing White House can do on COVID-19 is give consistent messaging; US new cases surpass 50k for first time Overnight Defense: Navy won't reinstate fired captain | Dems probe use of federal officers in DC | Air Force appoints woman as top noncommissioned officer Dems request watchdog probe use of federal law enforcement in DC during Floyd protests MORE (N.M.), Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyOVERNIGHT ENERGY: EPA declines to tighten smog standards amid pressure from green groups | Democrats split on Trump plan to use development funds for nuclear projects| Russian mining giant reports another fuel spill in Arctic Democrats split on Trump plan to use development funds for nuclear projects GOP senators debate replacing Columbus Day with Juneteenth as a federal holiday MORE (Mass.), Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyBiden opens door to supporting nixing legislative filibuster Hillicon Valley: QAnon scores wins, creating GOP problem | Supreme Court upholds regulation banning robocalls to cellphones | Foreign hackers take aim at homebound Americans | Uber acquires Postmates QAnon scores wins, creating GOP problem MORE (Ore.), Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Debbie StabenowDeborah (Debbie) Ann StabenowACLU calls on Congress to approve COVID-19 testing for immigrants Senators press IRS chief on stimulus check pitfalls Democrats warn Biden against releasing SCOTUS list MORE (Mich.), Tina SmithTina Flint SmithTrump officials seek to reassure public about safety of a potential coronavirus vaccine The Hill's Campaign Report: Candidates, lawmakers mark Juneteenth Group of Democratic senators to propose making Juneteenth national holiday MORE (Minn.) and Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: California backtracks on reopening as cases soar nationwide; SoapBox CEO David Simnick says nimble firms can work around supply chain chokepoints to access supplies for sanitizers and hygienic materials In politics, as in baseball, it ain't over till it's over Democrats blast Trump for commuting Roger Stone: 'The most corrupt president in history' 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 SchumerMJ Hegar wins Democratic battle to challenge John Cornyn Dunford withdraws from consideration to chair coronavirus oversight panel Wells Fargo told employees to delete TikTok from work phones MORE (D-N.Y.), have pushed back on this for a different reason, saying aid should go to workers instead of major companies.