Energy & Environment

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. 

Providing financial assistance to airlines has been discussed in Congress, and President Trump 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 Whitehouse (R.I.), Martin Heinrich (N.M.), Ed Markey (Mass.), Jeff Merkley (Ore.), Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Debbie Stabenow (Mich.), Tina Smith (Minn.) and Cory Booker (N.J.).

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 Schumer (D-N.Y.), have pushed back on this for a different reason, saying aid should go to workers instead of major companies.

Tags Airlines Charles Schumer Chuck Schumer Coronavirus Cory Booker cruises Debbie Stabenow Donald Trump Ed Markey Jeff Merkley Martin Heinrich Sheldon Whitehouse Tina Smith
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