5, 2001, 10:00 am Eastern Time
Source: US-Citizens Aviation Watch Association Contact: Jack Saporito, (847) 506-0670
AIRPORT NEIGHBORS OPEN LETTER TO WASHINGTON: Short term solution creates long term problems
Chicago, ILL—US-Citizens Aviation Watch Association (US-CAWA),
an aviation watchdog organization, is
opposed to the aviation industry's RUNWAYS Coalition.
The industry’s aim is to add runways, while further reducing already
inadequate environmental and public health protection and to protect airports
from court challenges. US-CAWA
is an organization comprised of various grass roots and civic organizations and
municipalities. US-CAWA’s purpose
is to protect those adversely affected by the air transport industry.
One of our recent major efforts was to prevent the passage of AIR-21 (The Airport Reform and Investment Act for the 21st Century). This Act called for the massive expansion of aviation and an enormous increase in landings and takeoffs, especially at magnet airports such as LaGuardia, Kennedy (JFK), O’Hare and Reagan-National. AIR-21 also called for a huge increase in flight activity at smaller regional airports. Federal taxpayer money, through the general fund and other financing schemes, amounting to more than $40 billion over the next three years, was added to the billions of tax dollars already spent, in an attempt to achieve this extraordinary expansion.
scores of others groups were opposed to this bill, because it would result in
more serious and deadly public health problems that are already pandemic and
deplorable. It would cause more
intolerable noise for millions of American airport neighbors, greater pollution
of our waterways and aquifers, noteworthy safety problems, significant impact on
climate warming, and other serious environmental, quality of life and public
welfare problems. Sadly, because
aviation is the key to economic globalization, this bill had the support of both
parties and the Clinton Administration.
Due to the gallant efforts lead by
Illinois Congressman Henry Hyde (R-IL), with the help of various members of US-CAWA,
a Congressional coalition of the slot-controlled airports was formed.
Because of the technical block our four airports had over the whole U.S.
air transportation system, this coalition, while it held together, was powerful
enough to hold the AIR-21 bill (HR 1000) at bay three sessions in a row.
Thus, the bill was not able to pass.
Our strategy was to hold off the bill as long as possible, while the
situation could be assessed and adequately mitigated.
AIR-21 was again promoted in the 106th
Congress by the House Transportation Chairman Bud Schuster (R-retired) and,
also, in the Senate by Senator John McCain (R-AZ)).
They were successful the final time because many of the New York and New
Jersey delegation, heavily influenced by aviation lobbyists and other special
deals for some airport neighbors, gave in to the heavy pressure.
Our coalition broke up and the bill passed.
The major excuse the New York delegation
gave for voting for the bill was that the elimination of the High Density (Slot)
Rule was delayed seven years at JFK and LaGuardia.
It was touted as a “great victory” for New York.
Many of the New York and New Jersey delegation’s staff were warned by
US-CAWA of the many loopholes in AIR-21. On
the other hand, O’Hare neighbors were punished for Illinois’ strong stance
against AIR-21, as the Slot Rule will be fully removed at O’Hare in 2002.
Actually, the great victory was in Illinois, because Congressman Henry
Hyde and Senator Peter Fitzgerald did the right thing for Americans.
They made themselves aware of the serious and deadly impacts of aviation;
the Illinois legislators stuck to their principles, despite overwhelming
pressure to “go along”. Wisconsin’s
Congressman Obey sums the situation up well.
He was quoted as saying, if you pass this bill, “God help us all!”
Since the passage of this bill, 600
additional daily flights (204,000 annually) were scheduled to be added at
LaGuardia because of regional jets (below 70 seats), and other exceptions that
were exempted from the Slot Rule in the AIR-21 Act.
The delays felt at LaGuardia that rippled throughout the nationwide
system this summer were predicted earlier in a 1995 Department of Transportation
Report to Congress A Study of the High Density Rule.
Basically, the study stated that if the Slot Rule was relaxed, massive
delays would follow. In 2000, these
actual delays and safety considerations forced the Port Authority to limit the
increase temporarily to about 200 additional daily flights, until the Federal
Aviation Administration (FAA) can work out a method of forcing in more.
Already now, and as a result of AIR-21,
studies show that the health of more than 70% of Americans is seriously
threatened. We expect an increase
in the already unacceptable rates of cancer, respiratory and scores of other
serious diseases and afflictions that are associated with “airport-aircraft
poisoning”, especially for those communities downwind.
Aviation’s toxic air emissions are not confined to the airport
boundaries, but contaminate areas twenty miles or more away from the airport.
While it is easy to condemn those who
voted for this ill-advised bill, despite the objection of scores of grass roots
and civic, environmental and other organizations and municipalities, the real
question is “What can they do about it now to make it right?”
According to the FAA and National
Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), there is nothing in the pipeline
that will reduce the horrendous flight delays, which will only get worse, even
if all the present plans go forward. Immediate
action should be taken to call for a moratorium on all airport expansion, since
all airports are part of the same system and affect one another.
The moratorium is needed to fully and objectively assess the situation
and to try to adequately mitigate the harmful effects, since existing controls
do not work.
In view of the fact that the massive
aviation buildup is happening way too fast and too much to the least sustainable
form of transport, the many billions of taxpayers dollars that are being used
for the expansion should be redirected into aggressively developing other forms
of more sustainable forms of mass transport, such as a world-class,
very-high-speed rail system, leaving air transport for long distance and
over-seas. High-speed rail is not
only a safer and environmentally friendlier alternative, it could also appease
the concerns of legislators, giving good transportation access for goods and
passengers to rural areas, while providing true competition against air
It is time that our country
takes the lead from other countries around the world and does what is in the
best interest of the American public.
Aviation Watch Association
Contact: Jack Saporito, (847) 506-0670
(ed. Note: US-Citizens Aviation Watch Association (US-CAWA) is a national association of environmental organizations, civic and grassroots groups, cities and townships that advocates a sustainable, equitable and accountable aviation industry. US-CAWA is linked with established organizations in 27 countries throughout the world. US-CAWA monitors all types of airport and aircraft-related safety: noise, air, water, and ground pollution, especially hazardous and toxic air emissions, public health and general aircraft safety.)