Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Senate Compromise Paves Way for Passage of Mostly Symbolic EU ETS Bill

Senate Bill 1956, the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme Prohibition Act, has been cleared for a floor vote and looks likely to pass after an amendment was added to secure additional support. The legislation accuses the EU of violating international law by extending its ETS to U.S. carriers and instructs the Secretary of Transportation to prohibit U.S. carriers from complying with the EU regulation and FAA and State Department officials to negotiate protections for U.S. operators. The legislation's actual impact on U.S. negotiations within ICAO is likely to be limited as the legislation contains sufficient qualifying language to allow the implicated executive branch agencies continued discretion in their response to the international controversy. The main purpose of the legislation appears to be symbolism as the U.S. Congress conveys to the EU its displeasure and willingness to take a hard line stance over the aviation emissions issue, and it affords individual Senators an opportunity to pander to anti-European and anti-environmentalist sentiments within their constituencies. The amendment that allowed the bill to proceed was a similar example of messaging as two Senators, John Kerry of Massachusetts and Barbara Boxer of California, attempted to burnish their own environmental credentials and soften the United States' anti-environmental posture abroad by securing language asking ICAO to do something to reduce aviation emissions. Corresponding legislation passed the House of Representatives last year. There is no word yet as to whether the President will sign the bill.

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