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European Union Emissions Trading Scheme Prohibition Act of 2011

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. MICA. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Thank you so much, Mr. Speaker and my colleagues, and welcome back. The Congress is back in session today, and I guess all people's property and welfare and everything else is now at risk. But I'm pleased to be here to help lessen some of that risk that is a threat which has been offered to the United States in the form of a European Union emissions trading scheme.

The bill that I propose today is S. 1956, which replaces the bill that was passed a year ago in October of 2011, and that's H.R. 2594. That's legislation which I authored which basically does the same thing, again, giving the authority to prohibit the United States aircraft and operators of commercial aviation from participating in the European Union's emissions trading scheme.

Let me take just a minute and explain what this is. Several years ago, the European Union and some of the folks that are honestly concerned about emissions that come from aviation, commercial aviation in particular, decided to come up with a scheme or a plan to impose a tax on all aircraft. Now, if this had been done within the confines of the European Union, I don't think we would be standing here. But what they did is really go beyond the borders of the European Union and say that any aircraft entering the European Union from another nation will be subject to an emissions tax--and not when it reached the borders of the European Union or their states, but from where it departed.

So this would be, first of all, counter to international agreements. It is also a tax that they propose to impose on us that is unfair in every way, violates national agreements that we've had, and it unilaterally imposes this emissions trading scheme on all of the countries, including the United States. It would have a very damaging effect, first of all, because it does not do what it was set up for. The purpose of this was to try to limit or even compensate for emissions; and the scheme, as proposed, did neither.

First of all, it would impose a tax on the airlines, which would be passed on to consumers, so we would have higher aviation taxes. Secondly, when they collected the money, the plan was flawed in that the money was not in fact directed to compensate for emissions. It was basically a money-and-tax grab by European powers and not really accomplishing it. So they put a nice title on it and imposed a tax--again, unfair--against and in total violation of international law and U.S. sovereignty.

So we have tried to work with the European Union. As the chair of the Transportation Committee, we led a meeting here in Washington with EU officials and sat down one floor below where I'm standing in March of 2011 and tried to resolve the differences. We actually led a delegation and went to Brussels, the headquarters of the European Union; met in Brussels in June and July of 2011 and further discussed trying to come to some agreement to resolve differences on this matter.

And then we took our case, as Members of the United States Congress, to the International Civil Aviation Organization, which is located in Montreal. That's the international civil aviation group that sets some of the policies and the standards for international and national aviation around the world. In fact, in October, a year ago, before we introduced this legislation, we convinced I believe it was some 27 or 28 of the 35 of their governing body to vote in favor of a position we held, which other nations also held. And I think only a small minority of some of the European Union core nations, in fact, prevailed in that vote. So we succeeded in garnering international support because this isn't a tax that affects only the United States, but it affects countries around the world. So we had many international partners who said this is unfair, it's not properly crafted, and it lacked transparency and definition.

In fact, when we sat with the European Union counterparts, parliamentarian to parliamentarian, they could not define exactly what they were doing or how they were going to impose this. And I think they're still at a loss because they don't have it completely settled.

So there is some good news on the horizon. Yesterday, the EU announced the postponement of imposing the Emissions Trading Scheme to international flights until 2014. Now, that's a temporary delay of imposition. They have said that they'd leave some of the decision up to ICAO, but ICAO does not set policy for the United States of America.

We are a sovereign Nation, and we must, again, I think, defend the position, our position, our sovereignty and concurrence with international trade agreements that have previously been agreed on. We've got to hold people's feet to the fire and respect also U.S. sovereignty.

So that's how we have gotten ourselves into this fix. We have a temporary delay; maybe that's because of this legislation that's up today. But we must move forward, I think, in giving the Secretary of Transportation and our officials the ability to thwart this kind of unfair tax imposed on our carriers, and that's exactly what this legislation does.

We're not doing it by ourselves. We have dozens of other countries that expressed their opposition. So we join our colleagues, both Democrat and Republican, in the committee in bringing forward this bill. It is modeled after what the House passed in October of 2011. And by passing this bipartisan, bicameral legislation that the Senate has now passed, we are notifying the European Union that we are not going to support the scheme and that, in fact, we want a positive outcome.

We want a long-term solution, but we will not allow the United States to be held hostage. The European Union or any other nation or group of nations cannot hold us hostage on these tax and international flight issues.

So we'll work with ICAO, and we'll continue to work with the European Union and others. And in the meantime, I ask my colleagues to support Senate bill 1956.

I reserve the balance of my time.


Mr. MICA. I yield myself 2 minutes.

Mr. Speaker, I have the greatest respect for Mr. Waxman and his leadership on many issues. Some of them we agree on--we're both art lovers and we both have great wives--but I have to disagree with him on a couple of points. First, I'd have to disagree with him on some of the climate statements that he made. I could spend the rest of the time debating that, but that's not what is before us.

What is before us is legislation that actually gives the administration and the Secretary of Transportation the authority and also the discretion to work on this issue. If you don't have the backing of Congress, how can he negotiate? He wouldn't have the authority or the discretion to impose some difference with the European Union. You can't fold the United States' tent here.

The other point that was made by Mr. Waxman was that we aren't working with them. Well, we hosted them right here. We sat and talked to them. Then we went to Brussels. We sat and talked to them. Then we went to Montreal with the ICAO, the International Civil Aviation Organization, which helped settle some of these matters and set the standards. When we left, they voted 26-36 to agree with the United States. So, in the international body, they were defeated.

This does impose a penalty and a tax on the United States. It's unfair. If it's within the European Union, that may be within their discretion to do it, but not from the point of departure in the United States into the European Union or, for that matter, from any sovereign nation. The money doesn't go to clean it up. I know Mr. Waxman loves the environment--so do I--but this money doesn't go for that purpose. It can be used for anything. It's not for engine technology; it's not for the restoration of the environment; and it doesn't stop emissions.

So this bill does represent a bipartisan, bicameral compromise, but it gives us the authority to hold their feet to the fire and get a solution.

I reserve the balance of my time.


Mr. MICA. I yield myself the balance of my time.

Mr. Speaker, again I'd urge my colleagues to pass S. 1956.

This does represent an honest effort to find a solution to deal with global emissions. They are a problem. We have tried to work with our European Union counterparts. Again, we've had meetings nonstop. When some of this issue began, we went there and talked. We took it to the international body of ICAO. They voted 26-36 to side with the United States' position; but sometimes in this business, you have to bring things to a head.

We passed this legislation a year ago with bipartisan support--Mr. Costello, Mr. Rahall, our side of the aisle. It was a little bit tougher measure than what has come from the Senate. The Senate did give discretion to the DOT Secretary and the administration so that they had both the authority and also the discretion to act.

I don't think yesterday that the European Union would have deferred to ICAO for a year if we hadn't pressed this; but we do need to bring folks together of goodwill, find a solution, something that is fair. And if we do want to clean up the environment and we want to have people pay a penalty for polluting, then we should ensure that that money goes back into cleaning up the pollution or at least developing the technology or offsetting the damage that's being done. The current scheme--and it is a scheme, which I have a definition of ``scheme'' here. A scheme is a systematic plan of action, a secret, or devious plan, a plot. That's not what we need to do here. We do need to work together, find a solution that's fair for sovereign nations and also accomplishes the laudable goal that we all set out to do.

I'm glad I helped force the issue. I appreciate my colleagues joining in this effort, and I think this is a reasonable bipartisan, bicameral solution that will accomplish the goal we set out.

Again, I ask my colleagues to vote in support of S. 1956, and I'm pleased to yield back the balance of my time.


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