Major environmental, development groups oppose bill that would obstruct pioneering anti-pollution law for airlines

July 27, 2011


Jennifer Andreassen, 202-572-3387,

In conjunction with today’s hearing at the U.S. House Subcommittee on Aviation, ten major environmental and development organizations released a letter voicing their strong opposition to a new bill that would force U.S.-based airlines to violate a European anti-pollution law.

The European Union Emissions Trading Scheme Prohibition Act of 2011 (H.R. 2594), the subject of today’s hearing, would block U.S. airlines from complying with the EU Aviation Directive – the only program in the world that sets enforceable limits on carbon pollution from aviation.

“By making it illegal for airlines to comply with the European law, the bill would not only worsen air pollution, but would also make it impossible for U.S.-based airlines to provide service to and from Europe. As a result, foreign-based carriers would be the only option for Americans flying to Europe,” the groups said in the letter, which was submitted to the hearing record and sent to members of Congress.

“The bill is premised on fundamentally erroneous legal and policy assumptions,” the groups wrote. “Contrary to the bill’s assumptions, the Aviation Directive is carefully crafted to fall well within the requirements of international law.”

Ten major U.S.-based environmental groups signed the letter: ActionAid USA, Earthjustice, Environment America, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), Greenpeace USA, League of Conservation Voters, Natural Resources Defense Council, Oxfam America, Sierra Club, and World Wildlife Fund.

As EDF’s International Counsel Annie Petsonk noted when the bill was released last week, “This is an aggressive attempt by a few House members both to worsen pollution by scuttling a pioneering environmental law and to force U.S. airlines to become scofflaws.”

EDF also submitted comments to the hearing record, describing in detail how the EU law is consistent with principles of sovereignty and international legal requirements. The EDF submission also lays out how the EU law gives airlines broad flexibility in deciding where and how to reduce pollution.

Three U.S. airlines — United/Continental and American — and their trade association, Air Transport Association of America (ATA), have also challenged the legality of the EU law in Europe’s highest court. EDF, in partnership with U.S. and European environmental organizations, has intervened in support of the EU law. Oral argument was held July 5, 2011, and a decision may be handed down within the next few months.