Rep. Adam Smith introduces legislation to support airport impacted communities


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On Wednesday, June 20, Congressman Adam Smith introduced the ‘Aviation Impacted Communities Act,’ which – if passed – will help communities located near airports.

As airline travel has increased, communities near airports across the country have been experiencing an increased and disproportionate share of noise and other environmental impacts stemming from commercial aviation. This has been the case even as many other areas have experienced reduced overall noise burdens. The concerns of residents of these increasingly impacted areas are not being adequately addressed.

The Aviation Impacted Communities Act seeks to help cities, localities, and neighborhoods to better and more productively engage with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).  This legislation would require that the FAA communicate directly with residents and locally nominated leaders on issues of aviation noise and environmental impacts.  Through the creation of community boards, affected areas will more effectively work toward achieving relief from the impacts of civil and commercial aviation.

Here’s a list of some of Smith’s recommended actions:

  • Aviation Impacted Communities Act (H.R. ####) – Congressman Smith advanced this legislation to enable communities around the SeaTac airport and other U.S. airports to better engage with the FAA. It requires that the agency to come to the table to address noise and environmental concerns affecting areas near airports. The bill designates communities under flightpaths as “aviation impacted” and allows them to create community boards that interface with the FAA to better communicate the concerns of residents. These boards can petition the FAA for noise and environmental impact studies as they work with the agency to create action plans that address those issues. The Aviation Impacted Communities Act also expands which communities are eligible for mitigation by allowing communities in the 55 DNL contour to receive funding for insulation.
  • Introduced the Protecting Airport Communities from Particle Emissions Act (H.R. 4087) – Rep Smith also introduced a billthat directs the FAA to conduct a national study on the emission of ultrafine particles around the nation’s twenty largestairports. The study would examine the percentage of these particles that comes from aviation, their dispersion, and how they affect the health of residents in communities around airports.
  • Highline Schools Mitigation Funding Amendment – Congressman Smith successfully advanced an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act of 2018 (H.R. 5515) that would ensure funding for noise mitigation remains available, as agreed upon in a 2002 Memorandum of Understanding (MOA) between the Port of Seattle, the FAA, and Highline School District. Two of the remaining schools in the MOA were recently deemed ineligible for federal funds to complete noise mitigation projects because of recent modifications to the noise contours around the airport. These changes left two schools outside of areas where the FAA could legally provide mitigation funding, despite the prior agreement. Congressman Smith’samendment allows for the FAA to provide the promised funding to the remaining schools based on the earlier noise contours so that they can acquire insulated doors, windows, and other forms of sound mitigation.
  • Engaging the FAA Administrator on the 65 DNL noise metric and timely use of FY 2018 Omnibus Appropriations –Congressman Smith wrote Acting FAA Administrator Elwell to encourage the agency to quickly implement provisions passed in the FY 2018 Omnibus bill related to increasing FAA engagement with communities. This legislation provides funding for dedicated community engagement members at FAA regional offices around the country to interface with communities on aviation noise and environmental issues.In his letter, Congressman Smith also requested an update on the FAA’s survey to measure the effectiveness of the Day Night Average Sound Level (DNL). In this survey, which began in 2015 and was further authorized by the FY 2018 Omnibus, the FAA is studying alternative metrics to the DNL.
  • Joined the Washington Delegation to Call on the FAA to Quickly Implement Aviation Provisions of FY 2018 Omnibus Appropriations Act – Congressman Smith cosigned a delegation letter circulated by Senator Murray, which urged FAA Acting Administrator Elwell to quickly implement noise provisions passed in the FY 2018 Omnibus Appropriations Act.
  • Quiet Communities Act – Congressman Smith is a cosponsor of Representative Grace Meng’s bill to establish an Office of Noise Abatement at the EPA. This office would promote the development of effective state and local noise control programs, carry out a national noise control research program, and carry out a national noise environmental assessment program.
  • Air Traffic Noise and Pollution Expert Consensus Act – Congressman Smith cosponsored legislation introduced by Representative Stephen Lynch that would require the FAA to enter into an arrangement with the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to study the various health impacts of noise and air pollution from aviation. The report would draw from experts convened by the National Academies and to set forth current scientific knowledge on airplane noise, environmental pollution, and other impacts from aviation.
  • Community Engagement – Congressman Smith actively encouraged the Port of Seattle to increase its engagement with airport communities and their representatives. During a community engagement meeting organized by Congressman Smith at the Port of Seattle, the concept for the Port’s SEA Stakeholder Advisory Round Table, or StART, came about. StART brings together residents, elected officials from various localities, Port officials, and the FAA to discuss issues of aviation noise, environmental pollution, and how to manage with the growth of SeaTac airport.

“The burden of airplane noise and environmental impacts should not fall disproportionately on any single group, neighborhood, or community. The Aviation Impacted Communities Act will help to bring some relief by streamlining the FAA’s engagement processes, allowing residents to bring their concerns directly to the FAA and airport operators, comprehensively assess the effects of aviation in a given area, and seek mitigation for those impacts,” said Congressman Adam Smith. “Community engagement by the FAA on the negative impacts of aviation is long overdue and this legislation will provide a pathway to solutions and much needed relief for my constituents and communities across the country.”

“Rep. Smith’s aviation impacted communities will help our beloved Seattle Beacon Hill neighborhood and other affected neighborhoods. We are under the flight path. Airplanes fly over us every 1-3 minutes. 70% of inbound flights go over our heads.  The noise is obnoxious, bad for our health and is disruptive.  We are a poor vulnerable neighborhood and this bill will help relieve this unjust burden,” said Estela Ortega, Executive Director, El Centro De La Raza, located in Seattle, Washington.

“The Aviation-Impacted Communities Act comes at a critical time and crossroads for our national aviation system. The Act provides an essential new voice and role for communities that have supported, and have been disparately impacted by, aviation industry growth. By seating impacted communities at the same table with government and industry, the Act provides a meaningful tool-kit for better, balanced, collaborative decision-making that can include noise and emission studies, long-term regional plans for reducing impacts, and expanded eligibility for mitigation. Quiet Skies Puget Sound supports and endorses the Aviation-Impacted Communities Act! We greatly value the work, advocacy, and leadership of Congressman Adam Smith on this legislation that so directly targets the preservation of our environment, human health, and quality of life,” said Sheila Brush, Founder of Quiet Skies Puget Sound.

The Aviation Impacted Communities Act will:

  • Establish a new “aviation impacted communities” designation for areas suffering from excessive noise or environmental impacts.
  • Define a community eligible for that designation as any residential neighborhood, locality, municipality, town, or city located 3000 feet below, and one mile on either side of any commercial jet route.
  • Require that the FAA alert these communities of their eligibility for the designation of aviation-affected community.
  • Establish a process for communities to bring together airport operators, designated community leaders, and the FAA to discuss solutions in Community Board meetings.
  • Require that appropriate FAA representatives attend community board meetings and respond to community questions and concerns about issues involving aviation or the FAA.
  • Allow communities to petition the FAA for comprehensive impact studies.
  • Require that the FAA develop action plans to respond to communities concerns and the recommendations for mitigation provided in the impact studies.
  • Allow communities to ask for additional noise measurement instrumentation on the ground.
  • Expand the availability of mitigation funding for aviation impacted communities outside of the current 65 day-night average sound level (DNL) contours.
  • Allow sound insulation for communities in the 55 DNL contour

The Aviation Impacted Communities Act is cosponsored by Representatives Ro Khanna (CA-17), Jackie Speier (CA-14), Hakeem Jeffries (NY-08), Eleanor Holmes-Norton (DC) Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), and Stephen Lynch (MA-08). The Act has been endorsed by both Quiet Skies Puget Sound and the Beacon Hill Community Group.

Rep Smith has worked directly with impacted communities and taken extensive action to mitigate noise and environmental impacts in the 115th Congress. You can read more about his work HERE.

A section by section of the bill can be found HERE.

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