Airlines, pilots reject US climate change bill

The Air Transport Association (ATA), the Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l (ALPA), the Cargo Airline Association (CAA) and the Regional Airline Association (RAA) have issued a statement in response to the decision by the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW) to approve and forward to the full Senate S.2191, the “Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act of 2007”: “While the airlines and pilots continue to take their environmental responsibilities very seriously, we have real concerns about the costs and effects of this proposed legislation,” said ATA President and CEO James C. May.

“By including jet fuel in a cap-and-trade greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions trading scheme, the legislation essentially would serve as an unnecessary and additional tax on fuel. It would greatly increase airline costs and would compromise our ability to invest in new aircraft and other fleet upgrades - the very things we need to continue to improve our emissions profile.”

The groups noted that U.S. airlines have made tremendous improvements in fuel efficiency, which directly relates to GHG efficiency.

“We improved our fuel efficiency - and hence our GHG efficiency - by 103 percent between 1978 and 2006,” said May. “This achievement was a direct result of the airlines’ continual reinvestment in technology and fuel-efficient operations.”

“This legislation piles an even heavier tax burden on an industry that already compares to the burden on alcohol, tobacco, gambling and firearms,” said ALPA President Capt. John Prater. “It would compromise the proactive measures that our industry has made in fuel efficiencies and further threaten our airlines’ financial recovery while rewarding ‘dirtier’ industries by giving them free allowances and special investment advantages. That sends the wrong signal to our nation’s pilots, the airlines and the traveling public.”


Another key concern is that Congress failed to enact legislation reauthorizing the Airport and Airway Trust Fund, which would have paved the way for a much needed Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) and which contained a number of valuable environmental initiatives.

“Modernization of our outdated air traffic control (ATC) system would enable airlines to fly more direct routes, thus reducing congestion and system-caused delays,” noted CAA President Steve Alterman. “Studies show that this could further reduce our GHG emissions by 10 to 15 percent,” said Alterman. “Congress has thus far failed to reauthorize FAA operations, which regrettably keeps delaying a decision on NextGen and its related environmental programs. This much needed program would bring tangible GHG savings while getting at the heart of the congestion and delay problem.”

RAA President Roger Cohen shared the concerns of the coalition. “The bill, if enacted, would result in unprecedented increases in jet fuel related costs. When coupled with record fuel prices that today are near reaching the century mark, airlines likely will be faced with more difficult and painful choices that will result in service reductions, especially to small- and medium-sized communities, and the loss of more aviation-related jobs.”

The coalition’s concerns have been further heightened by the speed in which this legislation has moved through the Senate subcommittee and committee processes.

“This 303-page bill, which would establish carbon as a commodity and redistribute billions and billions of dollars across the U.S. economy, was introduced less than two months ago,” explained May. “It has been fast tracked through the committee process, without undergoing basic economic analysis, perhaps on the hope that no one will have time to raise the types of concerns we are raising today,” said May. “Collectively, we urge the full Senate to give this legislation a more deliberative review and to recognize that it is the wrong approach for commercial aviation.”