Governor Asks State AG To Sue Feds Over Airport Noise

Image courtesy of Don Buciak II

While it’s convenient to live near the airport when it comes time to take a trip, it’s not always ideal for folks who have to deal with the noise of planes flying overhead day in and day out. That’s why Maryland’s governor is urging his state to sue the federal government: Airport traffic is making the state’s residents miserable.

Noise pollution

Gov. Larry Hogan asked Attorney General Brian Frosh to sue the Federal Aviation Administration over the noise from aircraft heading in and out of both BWI-Marshall Airport and Reagan National Airport, writing in a letter [PDF] on Tuesday that many Marylanders are “miserable in their own homes with louder and more frequent flights which now rattle windows and doors.”

Hogan says residents are “suffering from the adverse effects” of the implementation of a program called the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen), which instituted new departure and arrival routes from both airports.

Those changes, he writes, “have caused a significant increase in noise pollution for many of our citizens.”

“Instituted at the request of Congress, NextGen, both nationally and in Maryland, was intended to modernize flight patterns in order to save fuel costs,” Hogan says. “Promoted heavily by commercial air carriers, it has been controversial from its inception and widely criticized for insufficient study, notice, and outreach to the general public and the affected jurisdictions.”

Hogan claims that notice to Maryland was “inadequate,” and instead was designated just to ensure speedy approval of the plan, “rather than to promote community input and discussion.”

And on the other side of the state line in Virginia, residents dealing with airport noise from Reagan have also been complaining that the noise is getting worse. Some say their legislators aren’t listening.

“It’s pretty deafening here when they’re flying over here. It’s very disturbing and it goes on past 11 p.m. They start sometimes at 6 a.m. It’s a very loud and disturbing,” one local told The Connection, adding that the FAA is refusing to listen to those living south of the airport, and that her local state lawmakers appear to be missing in action.

It’s not just these airport that are causing noise problems, Hogan notes in his letter, citing a U.S. Court of Appeals ruling in favor of the City of Phoenix. That court found that the FAA’s approval of flight paths over the city were “arbitrary and capricious,” forcing the FAA to return to routes it previously had in place until it conducts a new environmental review process.

“As elected leaders of this state, we cannot allow this situation to stand” in Maryland, Hogan writes.

FAA responds

In a statement to Consumerist, an FAA spokeswoman noted that the agency encouraged the Maryland Aviation Administration to create a Community Roundtable — which it did — “to ensure that all of the communities affected by any existing or proposed flight routes are represented.”

“The FAA is committed to hearing the community’s concerns and to fully and fairly consider any formal Community Roundtable-endorsed changes,” she said.

She also referred to an Aug. 3 letter PDF to Gov. Hogan, wherein FAA administrator Michael Huerta acknowledged that the agency’s community outreach has found that “participating communities believe our methodology for calculating noise is unfair. ”

“Due to their input, we are conducting research and updating tools with the latest methodologies to ensure use of the most accurate noise modeling possible,” Huerta wrote.

However, the process to examine the airports’ procedures is going to take at least a year and a half, he noted, so in the interim, the agency is “also looking at what, if any, shorter term efforts are possible.”

The agency promised to work with the community to find a solution, but said “reverting to the flight paths and procedures that existed prior to the implementation of the DC Metroplex project is not possible.”