The European Union’s approach in passing its Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) tax “was totally wrong,” US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in his opening remarks at the 37th FAA annual Aviation Forecast Conference in Washington Thursday.

“The law is bad, and it doesn’t help our relationships with the EU. What I say is, sit at a table, talk to one another, reach a compromise,” LaHood said.

Admitting he was "very revved up" by the issue, LaHood said he would be working closely with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on addressing this in the coming year. “This is a very, very bad law that they have passed … to impose this kind of tax on airlines is wrong,” he said. “There are some things that we can do … some enforcement measures.”

LaHood told attendees that in the three-and-a-half years he has served as DOT secretary, he is proud of what has been achieved while dealing with some very tough issues, including FAA reauthorization (ATW Daily News, Feb. 8) and its work with the National Air Traffic Controllers Assn. (ATW Daily News, July 6, 2011).

“We think we have as good a relationship with ATC as has ever been seen in the history of the FAA. We’re proud of that,” he said. LaHood also highlighted the consumer rights agenda, tarmac delay rules (ATW Daily News, Aug. 24, 2011), and pilot fatigue rules (ATW Daily News, Dec. 22, 2011) that were implemented following the Colgan Air Q400 crash in February 2009 (ATW Daily News, Feb. 4, 2010).

“The worst day for me at this job was when I learned that 49 people perished in Buffalo, N.Y., [in] the Colgan Air incident,” he said. “But immediately we went around … and held meetings … and developed an agenda for pilot rest and pilot training … and we implemented a rule. Safety is our number one priority, always will be.”

Briefly touching upon NextGen, LaHood said that, along with the cooperation of others in the aviation industry, “We really have the resources and we really have the blueprint now to move pretty quickly.” He said he will continue to focus on NextGen, as well as on safety and consumer rights.

“I’m very pleased with where the airline industry is at,” he said. “They’re in a much better position than they ever were. That’s good for America, that’s good for travel around the world.”

Photo: US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. Courtesy, FAA