Quiet Skies Caucus proposal will rend asunder years of FAA Noise Policy without thoughtful review

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Perhaps there are some common genes between Congresspersons and Defensive Backs in the NFL—they both must have short memories.

In the recent past Congress has

  • passed legislation which established a national policy that the benefits of NextGen to the environment warranted (FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012) a more relaxed NEPA process
  • passed multiple appropriations bills to pay for NextGen and added airport capacity
  • held many hearings on the National Need for Airport Capacity, due to the benefits of the National Economy of aviation
  • held many, many hearings on the pro’s and con’s (mostly technical and cost) of NextGen
  • though it was 25 years ago, passed the Airport Noise and Capacity Act of 1990 (recodified) which, AFTER MUCH DEBATE, balanced the interests of local communities against the national interest in dealing with local efforts to limit capacity

Perhaps their staffs did not carefully read the FAA’s announcement (although it is referenced in the new paper article) that it is working on “a multi-year effort to update the scientific evidence on the relationship between aircraft noise exposure and its effects on communities around airports.” Further the Administrator said:

“The FAA is sensitive to public concerns about aircraft noise. We understand the interest in expediting this research, and we will complete this work as quickly as possible,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. “This Administration takes its responsibility to be responsive to communities’ concerns over air noise seriously. Our work is intended to give the public an opportunity to provide perspective and viewpoints on a very important issue.”

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That is a complex study of the technical noise measurement, the policy implications of any change to the FAA’s standards, the impacts on the many interrelated FAA regulations/policies (see above “Airport Noise” chart), the liability impacts of expanding the recognized contours in which a proposed noise standard would be deemed incompatible and the budget consequences of such an alteration. As aptly described by Administrator Huerta, this complex task will include the intricate balancing of local concerns and the national demand for an efficient, green air transportation system.

These are questions which one would expect Congress to ask in hearings when a new statutory standard would be proposed.

Instead the Queens Members of the Quiet Skies Caucus have requested, likely without any hearing, that the 2015 Reauthorization Act include the following statutory mandates:

  • “…the findings of its survey or of the Port Authority’s study may be superseded by stricter rules regarding noise monitoring and aviation noise mitigation strategies.”
  • “…because the FAA is balancing the interests of commerce, industry and people, it should be up to the House to make its urban constituents a higher priority for the FAA in considering any future changes to airport functions or flight patterns.”
  • “…mandate for more robust community engagement and hearings before flight paths or procedures are changed or new ones are introduced.”
  • “…require the FAA to use a supplemental noise metric, or the characterization of noise effects in lay terms, rather than the current measurement system that is often too complex for the public to understand.”
  • “…lower the acceptable noise level at which federal money could be made available for noise mitigation in affected residential and commercial areas.”
  • “…airport operators be legally permitted (they are currently not) and urged strongly to consider noise mitigation strategies on their own for communities experiencing aircraft noise levels below the federally acceptable noise threshold.”
  • “…to reform the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, which allowed the FAA to sidestep the environmental review process in implementing new flight patterns,…”
  • “…and mandate independent research on the health impacts of aviation noise.”

These eight amendments would rend asunder the existing carefully crafted FAA noise policy.

These are not technical amendments, but constitute “game-changing” alterations of the existing statues, regulations, policies, local legal liability and budgets. The Quiet Skies Caucus Act should be titled, “The Repeal of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 and the Airport Noise and Capacity Act of 1990.

These members may have short memories, but it is clear that their proposal, if enacted, would be remembered for many, many years. Passengers, sitting in the new LGA, will likely be waiting for hours of delay due to the Quiet Skies Caucus Act.

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2 Comments on "Quiet Skies Caucus proposal will rend asunder years of FAA Noise Policy without thoughtful review"

  1. I agree with them, the FAA is not listening. What is happening and has been happening in and around ORD for the past 2 years is a perfect example.

    Someone needs to put the breaks on this, we have been talked down to, shammed and been given the run around. It needs to stop. Every department in the government needs to be held accountable to someone.

  2. The Quiet Skies Caucus has my undying gratitude. Michael Huerta and the FAA are entirely out of control.

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