BY JAMES FARRELL
U.S. Sens. Charles Schumer (D-New York) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York) introduced new legislation to tackle excessive airplane noise around the country last Friday. The proposed legislation, known as the Quiet Communities Act of 2016, would put the Environmental Protection Agency in charge of issues pertaining to airplane noise by re-establishing a long defunct office called the Office of Noise Abatement and Control, according to a press release. The Federal Aviation Administration currently handles airplane noise concerns.
With both LaGuardia Airport and John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens, and Newark Airport not far off, airplane noise has long been a concern for borough residents, and the legislation was announced with special emphasis on New York. The bill would prioritize airplane noise as an environmental and health concern and allow the EPA, which is designed to address public health issues, to treat it as such.
“Airplane noise is a major quality of life issue and that’s why it makes sense for the EPA to take the lead role in addressing these matters,” said Schumer.
“The federal government must take more proactive steps to address the concerns of New Yorkers who are affected by airplane noise, and this bill will give the EPA the ability to act,” said Gillibrand.
The legislation would appropriate $21 million every year to the new Office of Noise Abatement and Control. The office would offer technical assistance and grants to state and local noise control programs, according to the legislation. It would also carry out research programs to assess the impacts of noise on mental and physical health, trends in noise exposure and the efficacy of noise abatement programs. Additionally, the office would disseminate educational materials about noise concerns to the public and to local noise control programs.
Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing) introduced this same legislation last October. It is still pending before two committees: the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on the Environment and the Economy and the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Last week, Meng, who is a co-chair on the Congressional Quiet Skies Caucus, criticized the passage of a bill called the FAA Reauthorization Act for not expanding the FAA’s ability to address airplane noise. Through the Quiet Skies Caucus, Meng led an earlier version of the bill that proposed noise-related provisions, such as health impact studies and better communication between the FAA and communities. This version of the bill was voted down.
“The absence of any measures to combat the problem of excessive aircraft noise over Queens and other affected communities across the country is a huge disappointment,” said Meng about the FAA Reauthorization Act.
The Office of Noise Abatement and Control was originally established in 1972 under the Clean Air Act, according to the EPA’s website. But in 1981, the office was closed, and noise issues were transferred to be handled on a state and local level. The EPA did not respond to a request for comment.
An FAA spokesperson said that they did not comment on pending legislation, but explained some of their efforts to combat airplane noise concerns. “The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) supports the reduction of aircraft noise where feasible in cooperation with the aviation community,” the spokesperson said in an email. The spokesperson pointed to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s noise compatibility studies, known as Part 150 studies, which “may result in recommendations for mitigating aircraft noise.” The spokesperson also added that the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey also established a New York Community Aviation Roundtable to address community concerns.
Schumer and Gillibrand have dealt with noise issues in the past. The senators established a hotline phone number for airplane noise complaints. Additionally, they have played a vocal role in urging the Port Authority to complete its Part 150 noise studies, according to the latest press release.
Reach James Farrell at (718) 357-7400×127, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @farrellj329