AReCO in the News
Source: Clean Air Report via InsideEPA.com
By Dawn Reeves
Date: November 20, 2003
Issue: Vol. 14, No. 24
© Inside Washington Publishers
DEMOCRATIC SENATORS REJECT PUSH TO PROTECT NEPA IN FAA BILL
Democratic Senate sources say they have rejected an 11th-hour push by national environmental groups to protest controversial environmental streamlining provisions in the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization bill.
A key Senate source says a deal between Democrats and the White House is possible this week on the high-profile fight over privatizing the nation’s air traffic controllers. That issue is taking priority among senators and if an agreement is reached, the environmental changes will remain in the bill, the source says.
Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) has been leading the charge against privatization, and following a Nov. 17 failed cloture vote, Lautenberg -- along with Sens. Trent Lott (R-MI) and John Rockefeller (D-WV) -- sent a letter for White House approval Nov. 18 that would prevent the privatizing of any air traffic controllers for one year. If the White House signs the letter, the FAA reauthorization bill is likely to be approved this week, the source says.
The deal is likely despite a new push from national environmental groups that tried to raise the profile of the streamlining provisions in the bill that they believe would gut the environmental review process, and make it difficult for the public to participate in decision making over plans to expand existing airports and build new ones. One environmentalist says similar anti-environmental measures are contained in the federal highway reauthorization bill approved last week by the Senate environment committee (see related story).
A Lautenberg source says the senator is concerned about the environmental streamlining but that maintaining federal air traffic controllers is his priority. Environmental groups unsuccessfully approached other Democratic senators to try to draw attention to the streamlining issue, including Barbara Boxer (CA), Hillary Clinton (NY), Thomas Carper (DE) and Republican Peter Fitzgerald (IL), who opposes the expansion of Chicago’s O’Hare airport.
Specifically, the environmental groups opposed two sections of bill: section 47171(j), which gives the transportation secretary binding authority over the scope of airport projects, and section 47171(k), which limits the authority of other federal agencies in conducting environmental reviews. Relevant documents are available on InsideEPA.com.
“The role of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the study and design of airport expansion could be dramatically curtailed,” the groups write. “The U.S. EPA brings vital expertise to bear in the analysis of air pollution and public health impacts.”
One environmentalist describes the FAA and highway reauthorization bills as “across-the-board assaults” on the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Among the most disturbing changes, the source says, is that the new bill would only require that the Department of Transportation seek the consultation of other agencies rather than the concurrence, which has been the general practice. “They are eating into the statutory authority of EPA and other resource agencies, forcing the resource agency to run permit reviews concurrent with the NEPA review . . . and giving authority to the build agency,” the source says.
In a related matter, a host of environmental and state air regulators are seeking to convince EPA to develop stricter nitrogen oxide (NOx) standards than contained in a proposal the agency released Sept. 30. The proposal would take effect Dec. 31 because aircraft engine makers are already complying with the rule, which mirrors the United Nations International Civil Aviation Organization standards.
At a public hearing Nov. 12, the Alliance of Residents Concerning O’Hare (AReCO) sought to convince EPA to move forward with regulations that are more stringent than the international standards rather than appease the airlines, which have been meeting those standards for nine years.
Amy Royden, representing an association of state and local air regulators, said her group was “extremely disappointed in
EPA’s recently proposed NOx emission standards.”