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Congress Sends Obama Bill Shielding Airlines From EU Rule

The House passed and sent President Barack Obama a bill barring U.S. airlines from paying penalties in a European Union plan to cut carbon emissions, a day after an EU commissioner proposed halting implementation of the program.

Representative John Mica, a Florida Republican and chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said during debate today that the EU plan was an “unfair tax” on U.S. carriers.

“We’ve got to hold people’s feet to the fire in respecting” U.S. sovereignty, Mica said.

The legislation, which passed by voice vote, seeks to ensure U.S. airlines aren’t subject to fines under the EU program unless an international framework is negotiated.

Because the Democratic-led Senate passed the measure Sept. 22, the action today sends the measure to Obama for his signature. The White House hasn’t publicly taken a position on the bill.

Representative Henry Waxman, a California Democrat, opposed the bill, saying nations needed to reduce carbon emissions to reduce the risks of climate change. He called the bill “unnecessary” and “counterproductive” given the EU announcement.

U.S. airlines, including Delta Air Lines Inc., have lobbied for the U.S. legislation, arguing the EU’s plan to expand its emissions trading system, or ETS, to cover foreign carriers violated international law.

‘Global Approach’

“Delta favors a global approach to the issue of aviation emissions,” Trebor Banstetter, a spokesman for Atlanta-based Delta, said yesterday in a statement. “Delta continues to support legislation from Congress opposing the EU ETS.”

EU Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard said yesterday she was recommending a delay in implementation of greenhouse-gas curbs on flights in and out of Europe in order to “create a positive atmosphere” for talks to establish a global market-based mechanism to reduce carbon emissions.

Russia, China and the U.S. had objected to a planned expansion of the EU emissions trading system.

Airlines for America, a Washington-based group that represents carriers, said that it was “cautiously optimistic.”

“We believe a global sectoral approach” through International Civil Aviation Organization “is the best way to address aviation emissions,” Jean Medina, a spokeswoman for the group that includes Delta among its members, said in an e-mailed statement.

The group is still urging Congress to pass legislation shielding U.S. airline carriers from the EU measure, she said.

The bill is S. 1956.

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