As part of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, Congress gave the FAA a fast track to implementing RNAV (Area Navigation)/RPN (Required Performance Navigation) by waiving the requirement to conduct an environmental analysis in any city. Because the FAA is updating it’s procedures and policies, the FAA has asked again for this waiver. We cannot understand what the FAA is trying to accomplish by avoiding any environmental analysis. The public had an opportunity to submit comments on having this ‘categorical exclusion’ of RNAV/RPN removed.
Many organizations and individuals around the country are getting involved and have submitted comments. It is good to see so many people paying attention to this issue. Here are the official comments submitted to date:
September 30, 2013
U.S. Department of Transportation
M-30 West Building Ground Floor, Room W12-140 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE.
Washington, DC 20590-0001
RE: Comments on Order 1050.1F Environmental Impact: Policies and Procedures (Fed. Reg page 49596, 8/14/2013).
These comments are focused specifically on the legislative category exclusions (CATEXs) within the document, specifically as they pertain to the implementation of Performance Based Navigation (PBN).
The legislative CATEXs 5-6.5q and 5-6.5r, provided in section 213(c) of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, make it possible for the FAA to avoid conducting any environmental analysis as a course of law. These CATEXs are in direct conflict with the mission of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), itself. According to the Order 1050.1F Environmental Impact Policies and Procedures summary page, “The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) establishes a broad national policy to protect the quality of the human environment and ensures that environmental considerations are given careful attention and appropriate weight in decisions of the Federal Government. Regulations promulgated by the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) (40 CFR parts 1500-1508) implement Section 102(2) of NEPA, which contains the “action-forcing” provisions to ensure that Federal agencies act according to the letter and spirit of NEPA. 40 CFR 1505.1 requires Federal agencies to develop and, as needed, revise implementing procedures consistent with the CEQ regulations.”
PBN procedures have the unique ability to greatly increase the frequency and concentration of flight patterns over neighborhoods impacted by Minneapolis/St Paul (MSP) airport. Unfortunately, no study has been done on the health and physiological impact of neighborhoods around MSP with these changes, which is in direct conflict with NEPA.
The FAA’s position is that 65 decibels (dB) is an acceptable noise level, however, the FAA has not been consistent with what is considered acceptable minimum dB levels. In a recent US Court of Appeals victory (No. 12-1335), the FAA successfully argued that flights at 45 dB are “unbearable”, and will “negatively impact” the quality of life. This same defense of quality of life should be pursued at all cities with urban airports such as MSP.
Most organizations worldwide have abandoned the use of DNL as an insufficient means to measure noise impact and use CNEL or other more accurate methods to measure noise. These organizations have also established 55 dB as the maximum threshold.
The FAA’s use of 65 DNL as a measurement is outdated, inconsistent, and flawed. We urge all parties involved to use more accurate measures of noise and to lower the dB threshold.
In addition, these proposed PBN procedures will create new departure tracks out of MSP that will pose an unnecessary burden on early childhood development. Approximately 35% of all children in Minneapolis will go to school within noise range of these new tracks. According to the World Health Organization, “Impairment of early childhood development and education caused by noise may have lifelong effects on academic achievement and health. Studies and statistics on the effects of chronic exposure to aircraft noise on children have found consistent evidence that noise exposure harms cognitive performance, consistent association with impaired well-being and motivation to a slightly more limited extent, (and) moderate evidence of effects on blood pressure and catecholamine hormone secretion.”
Human considerations should be made and all parties involved should act according to the letter and spirit of NEPA. An environmental impact statement should automatically be conducted by an independent party, using universally agreed to measurements, when requested by the impacted local communities.
It is imperative that a partnership be developed between the federal agencies, regional agencies, and local residents. We are calling for trust and transparency, neither of which is present when efforts to sidestep responsible actions such as environmental assessments are pursued. Government MUST do a better job. We live here. We work here. Our children go to school here.
Thank you for the opportunity to respond with comments on this document. We look forward to your response.
MSP FairSkies Coalition