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The U.S. government has demanded aviation-emissions data from nine European airlines two weeks before the European Union's emissions trading system is set to include air-travel despite strong opposition from the U.S. and many other countries.
The U.S. Department of Transportation on Friday told seven U.S. carriers and the EU airlines to provide data about how the EU plan affects them. The DoT letters, reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, said the department "will now seek certain information related to ETS."
Under the new law, from January carriers in the EU must hold permits to emit carbon dioxide for each flight taking off from and landing at EU airports.
The purpose of the new U.S. demand remains unclear. A person familiar with the situation said it may be to assess the impact of the EU program on airlines from both sides of the Atlantic, but it could also be in preparation for retaliation by the U.S.
Washington separately on Friday reiterated its longstanding opposition to the EU plan, this time at Cabinet level. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Transportation Raymond LaHood wrote to several EU commissioners urging the EU to suspend the enforcement of its new rules and negotiate with other governments on how to limit airlines' CO2 emissions globally.
"Absent such willingness on the part of the EU, we will be compelled to take appropriate action," the letter, seen by Dow Jones Newswires, reads. "It is the responsibility of the EU and its member states, not the United States or other countries, to find a solution to this impasse," it also said.
The U.S. and other major economies including Russia, China and India, have publicly opposed the plan since early this year. They say the EU has acted unilaterally, exerting authority beyond its borders, and has created controversy that will delay global efforts to cut CO2 emissions by airlines.
The U.S. letters come just days ahead of a European Court of Justice ruling on the case expected Wednesday. AMR Corp.'s American Airlines, United Continental Holdings Inc. and the Air Transport Association of America, a trade group, challenged the EU plan in a U.K. court in 2009.
That court asked the European Court of Justice to rule on the legality of the EU's plan under international agreements. In October, an opinion by a Court Advocate General--which isn't binding but is typically followed in the final ruling--backed the EU plan.
-By Daniel Michaels, The Wall Street Journal, and Alessandro Torello, Dow Jones Newswires; +32 2 741 14 88; email@example.com