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Rhode Island tables carbon tax planRhode Island tables carbon tax plan

AOPA testified in opposition to a Rhode Island bill to cut greenhouse gases by imposing a carbon fee on fossil fuels, citing the aviation industry’s efforts to develop alternative energy and noting the harm a new tax could do to the local aviation industry’s competitiveness. The proposal was tabled after a March 28 hearing in the Senate Environment and Agriculture Committee.

Photo by Chris Rose.

The bill would have mandated a fee on all fossil fuels distributed or used in the state, with the sum to be charged based on the quantity of carbon dioxide that would be released by burning the fuel, starting at $15 per metric ton of carbon dioxide equivalent.

Aviation advocate and pilot Graeme Smith, a member of the Rhode Island Pilots Association and AOPA’s Eastern Region Airport Support Network Board of Advisors, also opposed the bill.

In written testimony, AOPA, which has about 700 members in Rhode Island, noted support for investments in clean energy and described the aviation industry’s wide-ranging efforts over the last decade to offset its carbon footprint.

“Airports have installed everything from simple LED lighting systems for various aspects of airport operations to more extensive installation of solar panels atop airport terminal buildings and charging stations for personal electric-vehicles,” it said. “Engine manufacturers continue development of electric and more fuel-efficient aircraft engines. Burgeoning partnerships between the U.S. military, engine and fuel manufacturers have resulted in renewable aviation fuels derived predominately from algae, further reducing dependence on fossil fuels—all part of a broader industry effort to reduce carbon emissions and preserve our shared environment.”

The memo urged lawmakers to consider the potential adverse effects of “even the most well-intended proposals.” It cited federal mandates against diverting any fees levied on aviation to nonaviation uses—an unforeseen consequence of the legislation that could jeopardize Rhode Island’s federal airport funding.

“Furthermore, Rhode Island’s small geography and competitive-based fuel pricing model have previously discouraged the application of taxes on aviation fuels. If Senate Bill 2188 passes, pilots would be motivated to fly to neighboring states with competitively priced fuel to avoid the higher fuel prices in Rhode Island, hurting local airports and fuel retailers,” it said.

“Pilots’ voices were heard, saying that passage of such legislative initiatives, while possibly well-intended, serve to upset a delicate balance for GA airports as the cost of aviation is already high,” noted AOPA Eastern Regional Manager Sean Collins, who is working with the Rhode Island pilots’ organization to bolster their advocacy initiatives.

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz

Associate Editor Web
Associate Editor Web Dan Namowitz has been writing for AOPA in a variety of capacities since 1991. He has been a flight instructor since 1990 and is a 30-year AOPA member.
Topics: Advocacy, Economic Impact, State Legislation

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