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European Union Emissions Trading Scheme Prohibition Act of 2011

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. WAXMAN. Thank you very much for yielding to me.

Mr. Speaker, I rise in opposition to the Thune bill.

A warmer planet has less ice, higher sea levels, more water in the atmosphere, more powerful storms, more frequent floods, dryer droughts, and worse wildfires. Two weeks ago, Hurricane Sandy brought a powerful and tragic reminder that the combination of sea level rise and more powerful storms can be deadly, devastating and extremely costly. Hurricane Sandy was only the latest and most dramatic in a series of extreme weather events. Over the past 2 years, we've had record-breaking temperatures, the worst drought in 50 years, major floods, numerous tornadoes and thunderstorms, and vast wildfires.

This is what global warming looks like, and if we continue to ignore it, it will soon look far worse. We should be doing all that we can to reduce carbon pollution and slow global warming, but the Thune bill, instead, tries to stop efforts to reduce carbon pollution.

Specifically, the bill targets the European Union's requirement that airlines modestly reduce their carbon pollution. Aviation is a significant and fast-growing source of carbon pollution, and talks on an international agreement to control this pollution have languished for over a decade. So, since nothing was happening for 10 years, the European Union acted to require, for the price of only a few dollars a ticket--just a small fraction of the fee that the airlines impose on consumers just to pay for their bags going on the same airplane--that the amount of money be imposed unless the airlines can reduce the contribution to global warming.

These environmental requirements are no more a violation of national sovereignty than the aviation safety and security requirements imposed overseas by the United States or the taxes on aviation imposed by other nations. Everyone, including the European Union, agrees it would be better to address this issue on aviation from a global basis rather than through regional requirements.

Last week, international negotiations made progress on developing such an alternative to the EU requirements. In response, the European Union announced yesterday that it would delay the enforcement of the aviation requirements for a year in order to create a positive atmosphere and facilitate progress on global alternatives. That makes the Thune bill unnecessary. The airlines now do not have to comply with the EU requirements for at least a year and a half. The Thune bill is counterproductive. It would respond to the European Union's concession by enacting a retaliatory measure, which will undermine rather than advance progress towards an agreement.

There are other serious problems with this bill. The bill directs the Secretary of Transportation, if he finds it in the public interest, to bar U.S. airlines from complying with the EU requirement to control carbon pollution. It also directs the Secretary to hold the U.S. airlines harmless from the requirements. If we bar the airlines from complying, they will incur steep penalties estimated at over $20 billion by 2020. The Thune bill then says the government is going to have to hold the airlines harmless from this cost. That means that taxpayers may be on the hook for over $20 billion, although the bill also limits the use of appropriated funds. Or the hold harmless provision would force the Secretary to use existing authority to require European airlines to pay the fees to compensate the U.S. airlines.

Rather than doing something constructive about global warming, we are going to ignite a trade war with the Europeans. We ought to be working with them in an international context to do something rather than punish them if they punish us and have the taxpayers pay the bill because the Europeans have waited 10 years for an international agreement and nothing has happened.

The SPEAKER pro tempore. The time of the gentleman has expired.

Mr. RAHALL. I yield the gentleman an additional 30 seconds.

Mr. WAXMAN. Even if you oppose the EU aviation requirements, the Thune bill makes no sense. It's unnecessary and it's counterproductive, as the European Union just agreed to delay the requirements targeted by the bill. It also risks taxpayer dollars, threatens to provoke an international trade war, and jeopardizes U.S. national security.

I urge my colleagues to oppose this unnecessary and misguided bill.


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