Sustainable Airport Policies for Car Sharing and Ride Sharing Companies

“Disruption” has become the buzzword of the decade for technology startups.  Entrepreneurs take aim at existing markets every day with ideas designed to uproot and redefine their industries.  But some of the most innovative disrupters are having trouble bringing their ideas to a place where disruption is generally unwelcome: the airport.

Car sharing services such as Zipcar, Car2Go, and Getaround and ride sharing services such as UberX, Lyft, and Zimride are changing the game in ground transportation.  By using smartphone apps to connect drivers who have open seats in their vehicles with passengers who need rides, the ride sharing movement is reducing traffic and fuel usage.  Similarly, by planting a network of available cars throughout a city and allowing consumers to access the vehicles for a fee, car sharing makes it more practical for consumers to forego vehicle ownership altogether.  In 2014 alone, these companies have amassed hundreds of millions of dollars in venture capital financing.  Many consumers prefer these services to taxi cabs or other traditional methods of ground transportation because they are more convenient, affordable, and in some cases more environmentally friendly.  As with taxi cabs, airports are natural hubs of activity for car sharing and ride sharing services.

Notwithstanding the rising tidal wave of demand, most airports have yet to develop a workable approach to the unique legal and logistical challenges presented by car sharing and ride sharing services.  Instead, airports are prohibiting these companies from picking up or dropping off passengers at their terminals.  At a recent conference of in-house airport lawyers, several representatives from some of North America’s largest aviation hubs expressed serious concerns about these services.  One attendee suggested setting up “stings” by using the popular ride sharing apps to order rides from the airport and arresting the drivers for lack of taxi cab certification when they arrive.

However, non-airport regulators are beginning to appreciate that ride sharing services are not cab companies and should not be subject to the same regulations.  In September of 2013, California became the first state to provide a regulatory framework for Transportation Network Companies (“TNCs”), defined by the California Public Utilities Commission (“CPUC”) as any organization that “provides prearranged transportation services for compensation using an online-enabled application (app) or platform to connect passengers with drivers using their personal vehicles.”  (See CPUC Decision 13-09-045.)  The Illinois House of Representatives followed suit last week when it passed HB 4075, which seeks to implement a set of regulations specific to ride sharing services.

With mounting political and consumer support for car sharing and ride sharing, airports are under increased pressure to adopt policies regulating these services instead of prohibiting them.  Developing practical, sustainable policies that address issues such as airport congestion, service monitoring, and revenue sharing may prove to be a more profitable and efficient solution than denying airport access to car sharing and ride sharing companies.
 

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Appellate Court Grants Wide Discretion to Newhall Land and Farming Project Proponents in the Determination of the Significance of Greenhouse Gas Emissions Under CEQA

The California Court of Appeal last week reversed a lower court decision that would have indefinitely delayed the development by Newhall Land and Farming Company of 21,308 residential units, 629 acres of mixed use development, 67 acres of commercial use, 249 acres of business park, and 1,014 acres of open space in northwestern Los Angeles County over the next 25-30 years (“Project”).  The lower court’s decision had originally granted the Petition for Writ of Mandate brought by, among others, the Center for Biological Diversity (“Respondents”), challenging, among other actions by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (“DFW”) (“Appellant”), the revised Joint Federal/State Environmental Impact Statement/Environmental Impact Report (“EIS/EIR”) for the Project.

While the Appellate Court’s 112 page decision addressed numerous causes of action brought by Respondents in the trial court, one of the most unique and far reaching was its disposition of Respondents’ claim that the EIS/EIR’s baseline for assessing the cumulative impacts of the Project’s Greenhouse Gas (“GHG”) emissions is a procedural issue properly evaluated under the “failure to proceed in a manner required by law” standard, applicable to procedural actions, and that, employing the correct standard, the EIS/EIR’s analysis was predicated on an illusory baseline.  In a decision that is likely to be adopted in the adjudication of other California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”) actions challenging the evolving state and federal GHG standards, the Appellate Court firmly disagreed. 
 

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Local Governments Throughout Southern California File Challenge to LAX Expansion Project

The Cities of Inglewood, Culver City and Ontario, California and the County of San Bernardino (“Cities/County”) joined together yesterday, May 30, 2013, to file a challenge to the recently approved Los Angeles International Airport (“LAX”) Specific Plan Amendment Study (“SPAS”) expansion project.  The project includes: the further separation of runways on the North Airfield to allow access by A380s, B787s and other New Large Aircraft (“NLA”), as well as simultaneous approaches by other kinds of smaller, but no less impactful aircraft; addition of a new terminal; and a new off-airport transit center and people mover.

Cities/County’s action involves a challenge to the Environmental Impact Report (“EIR”) for the project, on the grounds that, among other things, the EIR fails to adequately disclose the project’s admittedly significant air quality, aircraft noise and surface traffic impacts, or to provide adequate mitigation for those impacts, including a coherent plan to disperse air traffic demand to other regional airports, such as Ontario International Airport, now operating at only 30% of its optimal capacity.  A copy of Cities/County’s Petition for Writ of Mandate may be obtained by clicking here.

Similar lawsuits were also filed by the SEIU United Service Workers West, a Union representing LAX service workers and Alliance for a Regional Solution to Airport Congestion (“ARSAC”), representing residents of communities in Westchester and Playa del Rey immediately to the north of the airport.
 

Surrounding Communities Object to Approval of the Los Angeles International Airport Specific Plan Amendment Study Project

On March 27, 2013, the Los Angeles County Airport Land Use Commission (“ALUC”) gave the latest in a series of approvals including those from Los Angeles Board of Airport of Commissioners (“BOAC”) and Los Angeles City Planning Commission, of the proposed Los Angeles International Airport Specific Plan Amendment Study Project (“Project”).  The Project includes construction of a new terminal, addition of runway safety lighting, and, its centerpiece, the reconfiguration of the North Runway Complex with movement of runway 6L/24R 260 feet north. 

Most notably, the Project will impose dramatic impacts on surrounding communities, including significant new noise impacts on over 14,000 people, 12,000 in the City of Inglewood alone.  Moreover, the Project adversely impacts the goal of regionalization which is a centerpiece of the Stipulated Settlement signed by the Petitioners in City of El Segundo, et al. v. City of Los Angeles, et al., Riverside County Superior Court Case No. RIC426822.  A principal goal of that settlement was, and remains, diversion of air traffic to other airports in the region, not the encouragement of access to LAX. 
 

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Public Strongly Favors "Cap and Trade" Carbon Emissions Program

A recent poll of registered voters in California concerning the new State “Cap and Trade” auction program, initiated Wednesday, November 14, 2012, and aimed at reducing greenhouse gas (“GHG”) emissions found strong public support for the program.  As set forth in more detail in the Aviation & Airport Development Law News blog of November 13, 2012, the Cap and Trade program assigns “caps” to carbon emissions (euphemistically called “allowances”) for various industries, including utilities and refineries.  It then allows those companies who have not used the full allotment of allowances to sell their unused allowances to companies that have expended their own allowances.  Effectively, the program would create industry-wide caps on emissions, with flexibility within industry groups as to the way in which to utilize the allowances within the constraint of the caps.  The political significance of the Cap and Trade program as one of the first of its kind in the nation goes well beyond the simplicity of its procedure. 

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"Cap and Trade" in Greenhouse Gas Emissions Launched in California

Once again taking a forefront position in innovative environmental programs, California, for good or ill, is poised to launch the first of its kind and scope in the nation greenhouse gas (“GHG”) emissions trading system (“Cap and Trade”). 

On November 14, 2012, the California Air Resources Board (“CARB”) will hold an auction mandated by California’s 2006 “Climate Change” law, AB32, in which pollution permits (“Allowances”) will be bartered to more than 350 businesses, including utilities and refineries.  The concept behind Cap and Trade is that polluters must either cut carbon emissions to the level of a specific emission cap placed on individual types of pollutants by AB32, or buy allowances for each metric ton of carbon discharged over cap limits from other companies whose emissions did not reach cap levels.  Through the Cap and Trade program, excess carbon polluters can achieve up to 8% of emissions reductions needed. 
 

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Draft Environmental Impact Report for Los Angeles International Airport Airfield Project Released

On July 27, 2012, Los Angeles World Airports (“LAWA”) released the “Specific Plan Amendment Study Draft Environmental Impact Report” (“DEIR”), involving, among other things: (1) a realignment and extension of runways to the east on the North Airfield Complex, including a separation of the two north runways to permit their unimpeded use by the largest operating aircraft, A-380s and 747-800s (“Category VI”); (2) expansion and renovation of the terminals; and (3) associated movement and potential undergrounding of surrounding thoroughfares including Lincoln Boulevard.  Sides are already forming over the proposed plan. 

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The Unmaking of the Great Park

A lesson for all those who oppose the development of airports – be careful what you ask for, you might get it.  Ten years ago the City of Irvine, California, won its epic battle over the conversion of El Toro Marine Corps Air Station (“El Toro”) to a new commercial airport for Orange County, California.  The site is more than 3,000 acres in size, and was, at the time, surrounded by a 14,000 acre “no development” buffer zone, that the military had maintained to insulate itself from liability for noise and other impacts from aircraft operations at El Toro. 

Despite the largest land use buffer around any airport in the nation, and the fact that the noisiest military aircraft then in existence, the F-14, F-16 and F-18 fighter jets, had been operating regularly and continuously out of El Toro for more than 50 years, when El Toro was marked for closure under the Base Reuse and Realignment Act, 10 U.S.C. § 2687, et seq., (“BRAC”), and conveyed to Orange County through a public benefit conveyance, a number of cities in South Orange County, including Irvine and Laguna Niguel, banded together to stop the conversion.  Their alternative was a 3,600 acre “Great Park” on the El Toro site, to include sports facilities, entertainment venues, and wildlife preservation areas, and limited commercial and residential development on the periphery. 

It was a very convincing story, and, ultimately, in 2003, after 10 years of political and legal battles and the expenditure of many millions of dollars on both sides, the effort prevailed in the passage of an Initiative, Measure W.  The Initiative transferred land use planning authority from Orange County to the City of Irvine, for the purpose of developing the “Great Park.”  The only problem is, another 10 years and mega-millions of dollars later, the Great Park remains an empty field hosting an occasional tent show or fair, and is on the verge of becoming what its skeptics expected all along.
 

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Ninth Circuit Upholds Federal Preemption of State Tidelands

A long simmering point of contention between State and Federal governments in the City of San Diego is the fate of the property now occupied by the United States Navy’s Fleet Antisubmarine Warfare Training Center in San Diego Bay.  The issue is whether the Federal government, having decided that a 50 year extension of its existing lease over the property is not long enough, can extinguish California’s public tidelands trust rights, granted to the State upon its admission to statehood in 1850, through condemnation of 27.54 filled acres in perpetuity; or whether, as the State claims, California’s public trust rights reemerge if the property is subsequently sold to a private party.  The question is of general importance, not only because many states hold public tidelands in trust, but also because the issue represents a test of the scope of the supremacy clause of the United States Constitution, and the doctrine of federal preemption that arises from it.  On June 14, 2012, the Ninth Circuit Federal Court of Appeals decided the question in United States of America v. 32.42 Acres of Land, No. 10-56568, D.C. No. 3:05-CV-01137-DMS-WMC (“California Lands”).

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A California Appellate Court Puts a Fence Around Federal Preemption of Airport Safety Standards

On March 20, 2012, in a far reaching opinion, the California Appellate Court for the Second District incurred into the territory usually occupied by the Federal Courts of Appeals, by holding that Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) safety standards, published in FAA Advisory Circular 150/5300-13 (“Advisory Circular”) do not preempt state tort law on the standard of care applicable to utilization of an airport’s “Runway Protection Zone” (“RPZ”). 

The case, Sierra Pacific Holdings, Inc. v. County of Ventura, 2012 WL 920322 (Cal.App.2 Dist.)), concerns damage to an aircraft owned by Sierra Pacific Holdings, Inc. (“Sierra”), allegedly caused by a barrier erected within the RPZ at Camarillo Municipal Airport.  The airport, owned and operated by Ventura County (“County”), erected the barrier for the apparent purpose of preventing runway incursions by police vehicles leasing space in part of the RPZ at the airport.  The trial court upheld the County’s motion in limine to exclude evidence of state safety standards relating to “airport design and construction,” on the ground that Federal standards in the Advisory Circular preempt state tort law on the standard of care.  The trial court’s holding was based on the Federal government’s “implied preemption” of safety standards at airports, and, thus, the foreclosure of Sierra’s negligence action based on a dangerous condition of public property under state tort law.  Cal. Gov. Code § 835.  The Appellate Court reversed on the ground that “Congress has not enacted an express preemption provision for FAA safety standards” and, thus, if preemption exists, it must be implied.  The Appellate Court’s decision is flawed for at least two reasons. 
 

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Legislature Asked to Grant CEQA Relief for Rail Projects

Following in the footsteps of his colleagues, on January 6, 2012, Assemblyman Mike Feuer introduced legislation that would give rail projects the same type of relief from California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”) requirements that were received in the last session by the proposed NFL stadium in Los Angeles, and some renewable energy projects. Notably, the CEQA amendments enacted for the NFL stadium include a very short time frame of 175 days for resolution of CEQA issues. While current CEQA litigation may extend to two years or more, depending on the complexity of the project and workload of the court, it stands to reason that issues surrounding local projects such as the stadium, with local traffic, noise and air quality impacts, may potentially be resolved within the 175 day timeframe. Rail projects are of far different scope, geographic extent, and are subject to a different set of laws.

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Happy New Year Except for California Redevelopment Agencies

As far back as 1946 when the California Legislature first passed legislation enabling the establishment of redevelopment agencies, the concept of restoring aging urban neighborhoods has played a key role in the character and identity of California cities. This role, which was enhanced by government money during the era of “urban renewal” in the 1960s, has now been effectively obviated by a ruling of the California Supreme Court which, on Thursday, December 27, 2011, held in favor of a recent State law abolishing the State’s 400 local redevelopment agencies. The Court also ruled against a compromise measure which would have allowed the redevelopment agencies to continue in operation with the sharing of their revenues with the State General Fund. Localities are now faced with the quandary of how to make up the shortfall. Several new ideas have been advanced at both the State and local levels.

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SCAG's Regional Transportation Plan Falls Down Hard on Aviation Policy

The recently published Southern California Association of Governments (“SCAG”) Draft Regional Transportation Plan 2012-2035, Sustainable Communities Strategy (“Draft RTP”) is a study in contrasts. The Draft RTP is meant to be a roadmap to “increasing mobility for the region’s residents and visitors.” Draft RTP, p. 1. Its “vision” purportedly “encompasses three principles that collectively work as the key to our region’s future: mobility, economy and sustainability.” Draft RTP, p. 1. SCAG’s jurisdiction falls largely into compartments: (1) surface transportation such as roadways and rail; and (2) aviation. SCAG has funding authority over the former, but none over the latter.

The purpose of the Draft RTP is to portray transportation from a broader regional, rather than merely local, perspective. On the one hand, the Draft RTP’s analysis of surface transportation growth estimates, trends and proposed policies for the Southern California Region to the year 2035 contains relatively sophisticated and substantially complete analysis and projections that meet its goals. On the other hand, the Draft RTP’s analysis of aviation trends and policies for meeting airport demand is reminiscent of a high school science project.
 

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LAX Grows Like "Topsy" While Ontario Starves

An interesting dichotomy was observable in recent news coverage of the utilization of the two major airports owned and operated by the City of Los Angeles. On the one hand, in a recent story, the Los Angeles Times reported that the City of Los Angeles’ Board of Airport Commissioners, the administrative agency charged with overseeing the operation of the City’s airports, is considering closing one of the two terminals at Ontario International Airport (located in the City of Ontario, but operated by Los Angeles World Airports (“LAWA”)). The stated reason was that Ontario has lost one-third of its peak 7.2 million passengers from 2007 to 2010, putting Ontario “on track to have as many passengers as it saw in 1987.” On the other hand, a story in the Los Angeles Business Journal touts passenger increases at LAX of between 3% and 10% over the period April through October, 2011. What the latter story does not do is venture an analysis of the potential causes of this enormous disparity.

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California Airport Land Use Planning Handbook, October 2011, Hits the Streets

The California Airport Land Use Planning Handbook, October 2011 (“2011 Handbook”) was released this week. It supersedes the 2002 Handbook edition. The Handbook constitutes “guidance,” Cal. Pub. Util. Code § 21674.7, for Airport Land Use Commissions (“ALUCs”) in the determination of the scope of their jurisdiction over off-airport land uses as well as in the formulation of noise, overflight, safety and airspace protection policies, as mandated by Cal. Pub. Util. Code § 21670, et seq.

It is important to note at the outset, however, what a Handbook cannot do. First, it cannot grant to ALUCs the power to regulate airports, either in the air or on the ground. Those powers lie exclusively with the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) and the local airport proprietor. Second, it cannot grant to ALUCs the final decision making power over off-airport land uses either. That power lies exclusively with local land use jurisdictions. What the Handbook can do is provide guidelines for the formulation of policies that bring to the attention of local land use policy makers the importance of “ensuring compatible land uses in the vicinity of . . . all new airport and in the vicinity of existing airports to the extent that the land in the vicinity of those airports is not already devoted to incompatible uses.” Cal. Pub. Util. Code § 21674(a).

As the 2011 Handbook’s girth exceeds 400 pages, and was issued only this week, the specific ways in which the 2011 Handbook addresses that charge will be the subject of a blog to appear shortly.
 

"Cap-and-Trade" Caps California's Climate Change Regulations

On October 20, 2011, the California Air Resources Board (“CARB”) adopted a new set of rules, called “cap-and-trade,” implementing the requirements of AB32, California’s groundbreaking climate change law. Enacted in 2006, AB32 requires reduction in carbon emissions, usually credited as the cause of “global warming,” to 1990 levels by the year 2020. The new cap-and-trade regulations will be implemented in phases, with the State’s largest emitters required to meet the caps beginning in 2013; and remaining emitters, collectively about 85%, required to begin compliance in 2015.

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CEQA and the Law of Unintended Consequences

On September 27, 2011, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law Senate Bill 292 and Assembly Bill 900, both of which are aimed at expediting, or “fast-tracking,” the litigation of lawsuits brought under the California Environmental Quality Act, 42 U.S.C. § 4321 (“CEQA”). SB292 is basically an earmark that will “fast-track” CEQA challenges to the Farmer’s Field National Football League Stadium proposed for downtown Los Angeles, next to the Los Angeles Convention Center and Staples Center, by requiring that such challenges be brought directly in California Courts of Appeals and be heard within 175 days. AB900 reaches more widely, “fast-tracking” all projects costing $100 million or more.

The stated intentions of the Bills’ sponsors are, on their faces, noble ones --- to provide more job opportunities, and spur increased spending and attendant tax revenue for the State, matters which seem urgent in light of the State of California’s economy. The problems raised by the Bills are less immediate, but no less important.
 

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Don't Procrastinate: Make Your Comments on Environmental Analyses Early and Often

Recent appellate cases have once again brought to the fore the critical importance of the “exhaustion of administrative remedies” for any potential challenger to an agency action based on noncompliance with the California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”), the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”) and other laws meant to protect the environment and public.

In California, as example, public projects such as road construction, airport development, and power facilities, as well as private projects such as shopping centers are challenged on the basis of the failure to exhaust administrative remedies, or to present the alleged grounds of noncompliance “to the public agency orally or in writing . . . during the public comment period provided by this division or prior to the close of the public hearing . . .” Cal. Pub. Res. Code § 21177.

All too often, individuals, environmental organizations and public agencies wait to make their decisions to challenge the analysis of a project’s environmental impacts until their frustration peaks, and the time for filing a legal challenge arrives. [The usual time for filing a CEQA challenge is very short – 30 days from the filing by the agency of its Notice of Determination (“NOD”) which marks the final agency action in the CEQA process. NEPA is normally 60 days from the signing of the Record of Decision (“ROD”).] By that time, however, it is too late, because “exhaustion of administrative remedies is a jurisdictional prerequisite to maintenance of a CEQA action.” Bakersfield Citizens for Local Control v. City of Bakersfield, 124 Cal.App.4th 1184, 1199 (2004).
 

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Ninth Circuit Calls FAA to Task on Environmental Impacts of New Runway

In what might be a surprising decision in any other Circuit, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued a ruling in Barnes v. U.S. Dept. of Transportation, United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, Case No. 10-70718, August 25, 2011, which, while narrow, begins the process of eroding both the Federal Aviation Administration’s (“FAA”) long held position that “aviation activity . . . will increase at the same rate regardless of whether a new runway is built or not,” Barnes, at 16285, and the Federal Court’s traditional deference to it. City of Los Angeles v. FAA, 138 F.3d 806, 807-08, n. 2 (9th Cir. 1998).

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The National Resources Defense Council Challenge to the Southern California Air Quality Management District Administration of Emissions Credits Rejected by Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals

In National Resources Defense Council v. Southern California Air Quality Management District, 2011 W.L. 2557246 (C.A. 9 (Cal.)), the National Resources Defense Council (“NRDC”) sought to call the Southern California Air Quality Management District (“SCAQMD”) to account for purportedly using invalid “offsets” for emissions increases resulting from new stationary sources. A panel of the Federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals found, however, that: (1) the District Court’s decision refusing to hold SCAQMD to a validity standard for its internal “offsets” for emissions increases was correct because such a validity standard is not required by the Clean Air Act (“CAA”), 42 U.S.C. section 7503(c) (“Section 173(c)”); and (2) ironically, the District Court lacked jurisdiction to reach that decision where original jurisdiction lies in the Courts of Appeals pursuant to CAA section 7607.

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Proposed Legislation Would Grant Noise Relief from Helicopter Overflights

Representative Howard Berman of Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley has been getting an earful lately from constituents disgruntled by constant, low level overflights from sightseeing, paparazzi and media helicopters from nearby Burbank Airport. In response, Berman introduced the Los Angeles Residential Helicopter Noise Relief Act which would require the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) to establish rules on flight paths and minimum altitudes for helicopter operations above residential neighborhoods within one year of the bill having been signed into law. The bill would contain exemptions for emergency responders and the military. Surprisingly, while FAA regulation 14 C.F.R. section 91.119 establishes minimum altitudes for fixed-wing aircraft, it exempts helicopters from such requirements. “A helicopter may be operated at less than the minimums prescribed in paragraph (b) or (c) of this section, provided each person operating the helicopter complies with any routes or altitudes specifically prescribed for helicopters by the FAA.” 14 C.F.R. section 91.119(d)(1).

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Inland Empire's Economic Woes Remediable Through Local Control of Ontario International Airport

The Los Angeles Times reports that, while economic conditions are slowly improving throughout most of the nation, including most of California, California’s Inland Empire, comprised of Riverside and San Bernardino Counties is not so fortunate. The Times reports that the volume of home sales in San Bernardino County dropped 18.3% from last June, and in Riverside County 14.7%. Similarly, jobs fell throughout the Inland Empire in sectors such as leisure and hospitality (minus 3,200 jobs in June) and educational and health services (minus 1,300 positions in June). Finally, the region lost 3,900 construction jobs over the year, and more than 75,000 since the peak of construction in June, 2006.

As part of the solution to this ongoing problem, the City of Ontario and County of San Bernardino have joined together to negotiate a return of Ontario International Airport (“ONT”), operated by the City of Los Angeles through its Airport Department, L.A. World Airports (“LAWA”) since 1967, to local control. ONT has, consistent with the condition of the local economy, seen an approximate 30% decrease in operations since 2007.
 

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LAX/American Airlines Commuter Facility Project Avoids Environmental Review

Yet another project at Los Angeles International Airport (“LAX”) has skated under the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”). The project, the “American Airlines Commuter Facility Improvement Project,” allegedly constitutes a mere replacement of the facilities once occupied by United Airlines. Not exactly. The project actually includes, but is not limited to: (1) more than doubling the size of the passenger terminal/administration building to add passenger accommodations and office space; (2) addition of an almost 10,000 square foot building for baggage handling, office space and storage; and (3) replacement of a remote gate, accessed by foot or bus, with an enclosed contact gate such as those which are used inside the main terminals.

Despite the expansionary nature of the project, Los Angeles World Airports (“LAWA”), the Department of the owner, City of Los Angeles, responsible for operating LAX does not give so much as a passing nod to compliance with CEQA. If the project could simply be described as “new lease with American Airlines,” as a recent “Transmittal for Review of LAX Tenant Improvement Project” would have the public believe, the omission to conduct environmental review might be justified by a categorical exclusion from CEQA, 14 Cal. Code Regs. section 15301. That exclusion, however, does not apply here. The project, far from being “negligible” in scope, clearly constitutes a massive expansion of the previous passenger hold room and other passenger serving facilities.
 

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City of Los Angeles Opposes Legislative Efforts to Encourage Growth at Ontario

The City of Los Angeles (“Los Angeles”) went on record yet again, rebuffing a cooperative effort between the City of Ontario (“Ontario”) and County of San Bernardino (“San Bernardino”) to promote growth at Ontario International Airport (“ONT”). The Los Angeles City Council formally voted to oppose SB466, introduced earlier this year by Senator Bob Dutton, which would allow for structured negotiations regarding the transfer of ONT to a newly formed joint powers agency comprised of Ontario and San Bernardino. The rationale for the legislation is that ONT has proportionally suffered the worst loss of passengers and airline operations of any airport in the Southern California region, and that a shift to local control is needed to restart what had previously been considered the economic engine for the Inland Empire.

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California Airport Land Use Planning Handbook 2011 Update Delayed Again

The California Department of Transportation, Aviation Division (“Caltrans”) has announced yet another delay in the publication of the “California Airport Land Use Planning Handbook” (“Handbook”). The Handbook constitutes guidance for California’s airport land use commissions (“ALUC”) in the establishment of height, density and intensity restrictions for land uses around California airports. This delay continues and even increases the risk of conflict between ALUCs and local land use jurisdictions throughout California. 

ALUC restrictions are not the last word concerning land uses around airports, as local land use jurisdictions have final authority to approve or disapprove land uses within their own boundaries. However, ALUC restrictions can make it more difficult for a local jurisdiction to effectuate previously enacted development plans in the vicinity of an airport. This is because, to overcome the ALUC determination of inconsistency with ALUC restrictions, the local jurisdiction must overrule the ALUC by a two-thirds vote, a hurdle often difficult if not impossible to overcome because of fears of liability.

 

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Draft California Airport Land Use Planning Handbook Available for Review and Comment

It has come to our attention that the most recent revision of the California Airport Land Use Planning Handbook (Handbook) has just been released for public review and comment. The review period will end December 27, 2010.

 

 

The Handbook and the Airport Land Use Compatibility Plans (ALUCP) approved by many jurisdictions based on it, have a profound impact on development potential and cost. This is so because ALUCPs contain stringent development restrictions on projects within as much as six (6) miles of each publicly owned airport in California, independent of, and in addition to, the restrictions imposed by local land use jurisdictions within those areas. The only way to avoid such increased restriction is for the public entity to “overrule” the ALUC by a two-thirds (or four-fifths) vote which does not often happen. Absent such an “overrule,” the project, upon which a developer may already have expended significant resources, may have to be significantly down-sized or even abandoned.

Because new versions of the Handbook are typically published 10 years or more apart, any increased restrictions arising from the most recent version will have impacts on developments into the indefinite future, even if there is no currently impacted project pending. Therefore, Chevalier, Allen & Lichman strongly recommends that you file comments on the Handbook draft and thereby influence the final edition of the Handbook, or, in the alternative, ensure the right to a future challenge to the Handbook’s unreasonable development restrictions.

Los Angeles World Airports Safety Justification for Relocating the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) North Airfield Complex Closer to Westchester Homes Once Again Proven a Myth

It's a good thing that Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) has finally begun to pull the mask of safety from its plan to move Runway 24R in the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) North Airfield Complex closer to Westchester Homes. According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), only three of the total twelve runway incursions reported at LAX during FY 2010 occurred on the North Airfield. This follows a long pattern of imbalance of incursions preponderantly occurring on the South Airfield.

 

On Friday, October 8, 2010, the FAA announced that the number of minor runway incursions at LAX increased from eight in FY 2009 to twelve during the fiscal year that ended September 30, 2010. No serious incursions that could endanger aircraft or passengers were reported at LAX during FY 2010. Nationwide, the number of serious runway incursions dropped from twelve in FY 2009 to eight in FY 2010. According to FAA officials, ten of the LAX incursions were caused by pilots who strayed across “hold lines,” while two were caused by air traffic controllers. Three of the incursions occurred on the North Airfield and nine were reported on the South Airfield, where LAX officials recently spent $83 million to further separate two parallel runways and add a centerline taxiway in an effort to reduce incursions on the South Airfield.

The FAA comparison of North and South Airfield runway incursions, showing three times as many incursions on the South Airfield as on the North Airfield, follows the recent LAX North Airfield Safety Study which found that the North Airfield is safe as presently configured, and that LAX officials’ plans to further separate the North Airfield runways and add a parallel center taxiway cannot be based on increased safety reasons.

Update on Draft 2010 California Airport Land Use Planning Handbook

In an article posted on this blog on September 2, 2010, Chevalier, Allen & Lichman, LLP (CA&L) reported that the California Department of Transportation (Department) had announced that the Draft 2010 California Airport Land Use Planning Handbook (Handbook) would be available for review and comment from September 7 through October 4, 2010. CA&L has learned that the Handbook will not be available until November, 2010.

 

 

The Handbook provides guidance to airport land use commissions (ALUCs), their staffs and consultants, and local agencies having jurisdiction over land use surrounding California airports. ALUCs rely extensively on the Handbook in preparing and updating the Airport Land Use Compatibility Plans (ALUCPs) they use to determine whether development project plans submitted to local planning agencies by property developers and planners can be approved.

CA&L has worked extensively with property owners, developers and planners, as well as ALUCs and local agencies, in interpreting, applying and incorporating the Handbook criteria in land use planning since the Handbook was published in 2002. We encourage landowners, developers and planners who have an interest, or may have a future interest, in development projects near a California airport to submit comments on the Draft Handbook when it becomes available. The Handbook, when completed, will have a significant influence on land use development approvals throughout California for years to come.

Draft California Airport Land Use Planning Handbook to be Available for Review and Comment September 7 - October 4, 2010

The California Department of Transportation (Department) has announced that the Draft 2010 Airport Land Use Planning Handbook (Handbook) will be available for review and comment from September 7 through October 4, 2010. The Department’s Division of Aeronautics has been working with Environmental Science Associates to update the January 2002 version of the Handbook.

 

 

The Handbook supports and amplifies the California State Aeronautics Act (California Public Utilities Code, Section 21670, et seq.) which establishes statewide requirements to ensure that all land use and development in the vicinity of California public use airports is compatible with airport operations. The Handbook provides guidance to airport land use commissions (ALUCs), their staffs and consultants, and to local agencies having jurisdiction over land use surrounding California airports.

The Handbook is also a valuable technical resource for real property owners, developers and planners who are planning development projects near a California airport. It contains guidance and criteria which an ALUC will use in determining whether a proposed project is compatible with the applicable Airport Land Use Compatibility Plan. Chevalier, Allen & Lichman, LLP has worked extensively with property owners, developers and planners, as well as ALUCs and local agencies, in interpreting, applying and incorporating the Handbook criteria in land use planning since the Handbook was published in 2002.

The draft update will be available at www.esassoc.com. Land owners, developers and planners, and local agencies are encouraged to review and submit comments on the Draft Handbook to the Department during the review period. The Handbook is expected to be completed in December 2010.

Land Use Planning Near California Airports Could Change Your Development Plans

Section 21670 of the California State Aeronautics Act requires that every county in which there is an airport that is served by a scheduled airline establish an Airport Land Use Commission (ALUC) “to protect public health, safety, and welfare by ensuring the orderly expansion of airports and the adoption of land use measures that minimize the public's exposure to excessive noise and safety hazards within areas around public airports to the extent that these areas are not already devoted to incompatible uses.” One of the duties of the ALUC is to adopt an Airport Land Use Compatibility Plan (ALUCP). In formulating an ALUCP, an ALUC has the power to develop height restrictions on buildings, specify use of land and determine building standards within the Airport Influence Area (AIA) designated by the ALUC.

 

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The California Supreme Court Clarifies Environmental Review Baselines Under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)

The California Supreme Court recently weighed in on the critical issue of the proper baseline to be used in assessing the environmental impacts of a proposed project under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). [Agencies must use a “baseline” from which to determine whether a project’s environmental effects will be “significant.”]  In Communities For a Better Environment v. South Coast Air Quality Management District, et al., 48 Cal. App. 4th 310 (2010), ConocoPhillips Company argued that the proper baseline for environmental analysis of a project at a petroleum refinery employing existing equipment should be the maximum permitted operating capacity of the equipment, even if the equipment is operating below those levels at the time the environmental analysis is commenced. The Court rejected that argument, holding that the baseline for CEQA analysis must be the “existing physical conditions in the effected area” (i.e., “real conditions on the ground”), rather than the level of development or activity that “could” or “should” have been present according to a plan or regulation. This confirms the California CEQA Guidelines requirement that the baseline consist of the physical environmental conditions in the vicinity of the project as they exist at the time the notice of preparation of the EIR is published or at the time the environmental analysis begins. 14 Cal. Code Regs. §15125(a).
 

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Wind Farms and Agricultural Aviation

With the advent of wind energy development, much attention has been given in the aviation community to the impacts wind turbines located near airports might have on aviation safety. However, a not so readily apparent impact that has not been widely addressed is the impact of wind farms on an important segment of aviation, agricultural aviation. Because many of the country’s richest wind resources are located in agricultural areas, an increasing number of wind farms are being built on leased farmland property. Wind farm land leases provide farmland owners a continuing income source. However, in negotiating, preparing and entering into lease agreements, wind energy developers and landowners should consider other potential economic impacts wind farms might have on farming operations which extend beyond the boundaries of the leased property. Continue Reading...

FAA's Most Recent Forecast Sees Massive Increase in Passengers at Region's Airports

The Federal Aviation Administration's most recent forecast of future airline passengers at the region's airports is an eye opener. In the forecast year 2030, FAA is projecting 49.3 million enplanements (98.6 million total passengers) at Los Angeles International Airport; 3 million enplanements (6 million total passengers) at Ontario International Airport; and 6.6 million enplanements (13.2 million air passengers) for John Wayne Airport. This compares to current figures for LAX of approximately 58 million air passengers a year; Ontario, 4.5 million air passengers a year; and John Wayne Airport, 9.8 million air passengers a year.

Of course, 2030 is 20 years away and much can happen between now and then. Therefore, the real eye opener is the comparatively low projected growth of Ontario. Despite the fact that Ontario has new terminals, runways thousands of feet longer than those at John Wayne Airport, and convenient freeway access to all of the Inland Empire as well as northeast Orange County, FAA does not expect it to grow more than 33%, compared to John Wayne Airport’s 38% and LAX’s whopping approximately 60%.

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Federal Aviation Administration Increases Protections for Airline Passengers

On June 2, 2010, the Federal Aviation Administration issued a proposed rule that calls for a new level of protection for airline passengers, including compensation for involuntary "bumping;" permission to cancel reservations within 24 hours without penalty; and prohibition on airline ticket price increases after purchase.

 

This most recent proposal is in addition to the Final Rule promulgated last month which bans lengthy tarmac delays and the imposition of other inconveniences as well as questionable health practices by the airlines.

Interested parties may submit comments on the proposal to the FAA within 60 days. It is a certainty that the airlines will do so, as the proposal appears to have a potential impact on their bottom lines. Further discussion of the proposal can be found at www.dot.gov/affairs/2010/dot11010.html
 

Proposed Project to Close "710 Gap" Will Require Environmental Review

On Thursday, May 27th, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) will consider approving the preparation of a comprehensive State Route 710 corridor study, which will include alternatives and environmental impacts of a project that would close the 4 mile gap in the Long Beach (710) Freeway between Alhambra and Pasadena. Alternatives will include improvements to surface streets, construction of a surface freeway and a series of tunnels. The project would be subject to environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The 710 Freeway Project would also have to comply with the Clear Air Act, Clean Water Act and Historic Preservation Act. The tunnels alternative[s] will present unique issues concerning groundwater, contaminated soils and active fault lines.

The 710 Freeway was originally planned to extend from Long Beach to Pasadena. The Long Beach to Valley Boulevard segment was opened in 1965. However, since that time the segment between Valley Boulevard and Pasadena has been stalled by public controversy and court actions, resulting in the “710 gap.” Opponents argued that completion of the Valley View to Pasadena segment would require destruction of hundreds of homes and some historic properties. Residents in other areas complained about noise and air pollution caused by heavier traffic on other freeways and surface streets because of 710 gap, and supported completion of the freeway. In 1999 a U.S District Court Judge ruled that the project, as then proposed, violated the Clear Air Act, NEPA and the Historic Preservation Act. Rather than remedy the violations, the Federal Highways Administration (FHWA) rescinded its Record of Decision (ROD) and the California Transportation Commission withdrew its Notice of Determination.

Wind Farm Projects - Federal and Local Environmental and Legal Issues

In the midst of much debate as to whether a threat of “global warming” and “global climate change” actually exists and, if it does, further debate as to whether wind-generated energy would reduce carbon-dioxide emissions sufficiently to have a measurable impact on global temperatures, one thing is certain – wind farms are here, and more are planned. And, as with all forms of energy generation, the siting, construction and operation of wind farms present a number of Federal and local environmental and legal issues.

At the Federal level, wind farm projects may be subject to environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). They may also be subject to challenge under the Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act, Migratory Bird Treaty Act, Rivers and Harbors Act and the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act. (The Mineral Management Services (MMS) has authority to regulate alternative energy projects on the Outer Continental Shelf.) Other regulatory issues include Bureau of Land Management (BLM) policies for wind energy projects proposed for land managed by BLM, and U.S. Forest Service (USFS) special use permit requirements for wind energy projects proposed on USFS managed land. Wind farm projects proposed near airports or military airfields must be evaluated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to determine if they would be an obstruction or hazard to air navigation or interfere with surveillance radar. Wind farm projects can sometimes impact tribal rights.

Potential state and local issues include state environmental review, project siting, permitting and licensing, zoning and surrounding land uses, land leases and easements, turbine noise, vibration (“aerodynamic modulation”), shadow flicker, visual impacts and aesthetic concerns, perceived health effects of wind turbines, interference with electromagnetic transmissions (radio, television and cell phone signals) and claims for declines in tourism and property values. There can also be issues concerning technical requirements, safety, insurance and liabilities on the part of developers, landowners and operators.

These and other wind farm related issues are being litigated, and will continue to be litigated in increasing numbers, in state and Federal courts. The litigation ranges from a case pending in a North Dakota District Court, in which the City of Wishek is seeking to force a homeowner to remove a single wind turbine from his yard, to the 130-turbine Cape Wind project, located in waters five miles off Cape Cod and recently approved by the FAA and the Department of Interior, which opponents have vowed will “be in litigation for years.”

A New Edition of the California Airport Land Use Planning Handbook May Mean Trouble

Developers and local land use jurisdictions beware.  The California Department of Transportation (“CalTrans”) has initiated an update of the 2002 California Airport Land Use Planning Handbook which is scheduled to be completed in 2010.  The Handbook provides guidance to County Airport Land Use Commissions (“ALUC”) in the imposition of height and other zoning and land use restrictions around airports.

An initial problem arises from the Handbook’s interpretation of the airport land use planning process as set forth in the California Aeronautics Act, Public Utilities Code § 21670, et seq.  The California Supreme Court has defined airport land use plans as in the nature of “multi-jurisdictional general plans,” Muzzy Ranch Co. v. Solano County Airport Land Use Commission, 41 Cal.4th 372, 384 (2007), that often supercede local zoning at distances as great as five miles from the end of each runway.  For land use jurisdictions, this means that carefully crafted local regulations within those areas are rendered essentially null, because land use jurisdictions must bring their general and specific plans into consistency with airport land use plans within 180 days of the airport land use plan’s approval, or overrule the approval of the Airport Land Use Plan by a two-thirds vote.  Gov. Code § 65302.3.

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Greenhouse Gases Should Be Considered in All EISs and EAs

On 40th Anniversary of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), Jim Tankersley of the Los Angeles Times wrote that

The White House is poised to order all federal agencies to evaluate any major actions they take, such as building highways or logging national forests, to determine how they would contribute to and be affected by climate change, a step long sought by environmentalists.

The Presidential Order would most likely issue from the Council on Environmental Quality, an organization set up by NEPA to oversee the NEPA process. Mr. Tankersley’s article goes on to report that that

The head of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, Nancy Sutley, said in an interview this week that federal agencies "should think about both the effect of greenhouse gas emissions, and the effects of climate change, on decisions they make."

She added that the administration's decision was not yet final.

The White House was originally petitioned in 2008 to formally recognize climate considerations under NEPA, but the White House has not taken any action since then.

However, federal agencies may already be required to include an analysis of climate in their Environmental Impact Statements (EISs) and Environmental Assessments (EAs). NEPA does not mention specific areas that federal agencies must analyze to complete EISs and EAs. Instead, it states that the federal agency shall analyze the effect the federal project will have on the environment, without specifically mentioning any particular areas that need to be examined. Thus, it could be argued that federal agencies should already be examining the effect of the federal project on climate change since that is an “environmental effect” within the purview of NEPA.

As Mr. Tankersley’s article points out, some federal agencies have already taken upon themselves to consider effects on climate. Moreover, there is a growing body of caselaw indicating that the courts are beginning to rule that federal agencies should consider the effect their projects will have on the environment. The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit recently held in Center for Biological Diversity v. National Highway Transportation Safety Administration that the NHTSA was required to examine in its EIS the effect of greenhouse gas emissions from the federal project. In coming to that conclusion, the 9th Circuit summarized the following findings from International Panel on Climate Change reports and other sources:

Carbon dioxide concentrations increasing over the 21st century are virtually certain to be mainly due to fossil-fuel emissions;

The average earth surface temperature has increased by about 0.6 degrees;

There have been severe impacts in the Arctic due to warming, including sea ice decline;

Global warming will affect plants, animals, and ecosystems around the world. Some scientists predict that it will cause 15 to 37 percent of species in certain regions to be extinct;

Global warming will cause serious consequences for human health, including the spread of infections and respiratory diseases;

Climate change is associated with increasing variability and heightened intensity of storm such as hurricanes;

Climate change may be non-linear, meaning there are positive feedback mechanisms that may push global warming past a dangerous threshold (the“tipping point”).

Center for Biological Diversity v. NHTSA, 508 F.3d at 522-23. To the Court, these findings indicate that emission of greenhouse gases substantially contribute to climate change, and climate change is expected to result in widespread adverse environmental effects. Therefore, it should be mentioned in the EIS. See also, Friends of the Earth, Inc. v. Mosbacher, 488 F.Supp.2d 889 (N.D. Cal. 2007); Border Power Plant Working Group v. Department of Energy, 260 F.Supp.2d 997 (S.D. Cal. 2003); and Mid-States Coalition for Progress v. Surface Transportation Board, 345 F.3d 520 (8th Cir. 2003).

In addition, NEPA contains a provision that could be taken to require federal agencies to consider the impact of the greenhouse gas emissions created by the federal project. Section 102(F) of NEPA, 42 U.S.C. 4332(F) states that “all agencies of the Federal government shall:”

Recognize the worldwide and long-range character of environmental problems and, where consistent with the foreign policy of the United States, lend appropriate support to initiatives, resolutions, and programs designed to maximize international cooperation in anticipating and preventing a decline in the quality of mankind’s world environment.

To be sure, an order from the White House would be beneficial in establishing a nationwide policy and prompt recalcitrant agencies to require consideration of climate change in their EISs and EAs. At least in the Ninth and Eighth Circuits, however, one could argue that the courts have taken the view that NEPA already requires exactly what the order would seek to implement.

What Does EPA's Finding that Greenhouse Gas Emissions Endanger Public Health and the Environment Mean to Business?

When the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued its final finding that emission of six greenhouse gases endangered the public’s health and the environment because of their effect on climate change, the business community wondered how it should respond to the news.  At first glance, there seems to be blinding maze of legal and policy issues that will affect business decisions.  Although far from clear, there is a way out of the maze – although businesses with significant greenhouse gas emissions should be prepared to tackle the important issues that the Endangerment Finding raises.

Businesses Need to Take a Deep Breath (Irony Intended)

The road to the endangerment finding began in 2007, when the U.S. Supreme Court decided in Massachusetts v. EPA that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases constituted “air pollutants” under the Clean Air Act.  To most savvy businessmen this was a clear signal to start planning how their businesses would cope with the establishment of limits on emission of greenhouse gases.  Although the Bush Administration EPA successfully sat on the issue, when the Obama Administration took office, most companies recognized that an endangerment finding would top the EPA’s list of major environmental actions.  Thus, EPA’s announcement this past April of its proposed finding and its announcement of the final endangerment finding should have come as no surprise to anyone who has been monitoring this issue.

The key thing for businesses to remember is that the endangerment finding by itself does not regulate the emission of greenhouse gases from any source, large or small.  That being said, it does have a direct impact on mobile sources (because of section 202(a) of the Clean Air Act), with the EPA planning on issuing its final “light-duty vehicle” greenhouse gas emissions rule some time in Spring 2010.

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October 21, 2009 - Aviation and Airport Development Updates

 

A summary review of Aviation and Airport Development related news and information that was made public during the past week.  Trisha Ton-Nu also contributed to this post.

House Passes Bill to Toughen Pilot Training Rules.--- Joan Lowy, Associated Press, October 15, 2009

The House passed a bill, 409-11, to toughen regulations on pilot training, qualifications, and work schedules, after a fatal crash in upstate New York in February and other accidents involving regional airlines. The bill would require that all pilots flying for a passenger-carrying airline have an Air Transport Pilot certificate, which would significantly increase the number of flying hours an entry-level airline pilot must have. Under the bill, the Federal Aviation Administration is also required to update rules governing how many hours airlines may require a pilot to fly before the pilot is permitted rest. The FAA is additionally required to ensure that airlines conduct comprehensive pre-employment screening of prospective pilots, create mentoring programs between experienced and newly hired pilots, and provide remedial training for pilots who perform poorly on skills tests. A companion bill is being introduced in the Senate.

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Passenger ‘Rights’ Advocate Sues Delta, Alleges Email Hacking. --- Justin Bachman, BusinessWeek, October 13, 2009

Kate Hanni, a passenger rights advocate, is accusing Delta Airlines and Metron Aviation aviation consulting firm of hacking into her email and personal computer. Her computer and email account were both accessed illegally this past summer, with some emails stolen and other work materials damaged. Both Delta and Metron deny the allegations and dismiss them as “baseless and without merit.”

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ATA Commends ICAO Member States for Progress on Climate Change Agenda. --- Air Transport Association, October 14, 2009

The Air Transport Association of America commended the member states of the International Civil Aviation Organization for confirming a Program of Action at a recent High Level Meeting on Climate Change. The ATA was pleased with the “groundwork” laid by ICAO in the members’ endorsement of continuing fuel efficiency improvements, and agreement that additional goals like carbon-neutral growth in the medium term need to be considered. ATA President James C. May urged ICAO to fully endorse a global sectoral approach to aviation and climate change over the next year.

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Safety Bill Faces Rough Flight in Senate. --- Jerry Zremski, The Buffalo News, October 16, 2009

The aviation safety bill recently passed in the House is likely to face tough challenges for passage in the Senate due to growing industry opposition, the intrusion of extraneous issues that could delay or doom the safety measures, and a tight Senate schedule. The major airlines are particularly opposed to the provision that would boost the number of flight hours for newly hired pilots from the current 250 to 1,500, citing that experience is not equated with total flight time or level of technical certification. The pilots and their union, however, back the training requirement. The bill also faces a procedural challenge in that it must be merged with the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill pending in the Senate Finance Committee, which has been wrapped up for months with healthcare reform legislation.

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FAA Opposes Plan for Composting at Palo AltoAirport. --- Will Oremus, Silicon Valley Mercury News, October 16, 2009

A citizen task force on compost and aviators are opposed on the issue of building a new compost facility at Palo Alto, California airport. The task force presented a plan to the city council to build a new, high-tech composting facility on four undeveloped acres owned by the airport, but airport backers were incensed they had not been consulted, and some saw the project as a nonstarter. They sent a letter to the city council outlining their opposition and noting that the airport has long sought to use the undeveloped land, but been unallowed to by the council, and raising safety issues about the composting operation.

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FAA Drops Objections to New Jersey Wetland Restoration. --- Associated Press, October 16, 2009

The Federal Aviation Administration dropped its objections to the restoration of wetlands on a 250-acre site near Teterboro Airport in New Jersey. The agency had feared that the project would lead to planes hitting more migratory birds, but now says in an Oct. 5 letter that it will work out a plan to keep birds from the area out of the path of air traffic at the airport.

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FAA Scuttles Wind Turbines at CapeBase. --- Associated Press, October 16, 2009

Six days after approving wind turbines at the Massachusetts Military Reservation on Cape Cod, the Federal Aviation Administration said some could not be built because they would pose a hazard to air navigation. The National Guard filed applications for as many as 17 wind turbines and the FAA originally approved of eight of them, but now just three remain.

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FAA Seeks Certain Safety Work on Boeing Jets. --- Reuters, October 16, 2009

The Federal Aviation Administration is asking airlines to replace fuel pump parts on nearly 700 Boeing 757s and inspect more than 780 newer model 737s for tiny fuselage scratches. Boeing Co. said it recommended that both steps be taken as part of ongoing safety programs for the fleet, and as part of joint safety efforts by Boeing, the FAA, and airlines that include reducing chances that electrical shorts could ignite fuel vapors.

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Audit Forcing Airport to Justify Land Usage. --- D.R. Stewart, Tulsa World, October 17, 2009

A Department of Transportation Office of the Inspector General audit is requiring Tulsa International Airport (Oklahoma) and many other commercial airports to show justification for the use of thousands of acres of property acquired under a federal aircraft noise mitigation program. The 2005 audit found that 11 airports surveyed were holding 3,800 acres of land worth approximately $235 million that were no longer needed for noise compatibility or airport development, and the Federal Aviation Administration is now directing airports that have acquired noise-sensitive properties with FAA grants to inventory the properties, describe their uses or proposed uses, and justify the rationale for keeping or selling them back to the private sector.

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FAA Expands American Airlines Repair Probe. --- Associated Press, October 17, 2009

The Wall Street Journal reports that the Federal Aviation Administration may be expanding its investigation into suspected structural problems found in American Airlines’ McDonnell Douglas MD-80 series jets. An American Airlines spokesman told the newspaper that the carrier has responded to the agency’s formal letter of investigation, and the carrier is also slowly replacing the MD-80s with new, more fuel-efficient planes. Preliminary FAA findings show that as many as 16 jets were operated for months despite substandard repairs.

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Two Passengers Sue United Airlines Over A320 Runway Skid in Chicago Caused by Crossed Wiring. --- Tim Klass, Associated Press, October 20, 2009

Two passengers on a United Airlines A320 that skidded off a runway in Chicago in October 2007 are suing the airline and the manufacturer for damages for pain, suffering, lost pay, medical expenses, and other losses. United has confirmed that a previous United A320 that skidded into snow at Jackson Hole Airport in Wyoming in February 2008, as well as the plane in Chicago and a third not involved in any mishap, had crossed wiring in the main landing gear, which could cause the wheels to lock on both planes that went off the runways. The Federal Aviation Administration has not yet determined the outcome of its investigation into the Chicago skid, however, in August 2008 the agency proposed an $18,000 penalty against United for two maintenance violations that preceded the Jackson Hole skid.

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Airport Expansion Hitting Critical Juncture. --- Keith Benman, In Business, October 21, 2009

Gary/Chicago International Airport (Illinois) must accomplish several tasks in the coming months to remain on schedule for spending approximately $6 million per year in Federal Aviation Administration funding. Land acquisition and other projects have kept the airport on schedule for spending the money, Illinois Representative Ed Soliday says getting positive revenue into the airport is also important. State officials have also been pushing for the privatization of Gary airport, hoping that privatization could help bring airlines to the airport. The airport faces problems in moving railroad tracks, which interfere with a planned runway expansion, in seeking the condemnation of 103 acres of land owned by Gary Community School Corp., which it needs to satisfy federal requirements that any sensitive habitats destroyed by the expansion be replaced, and in fully exploring environmental contamination.

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October 1, 2009 - Aviation and Airport Development Updates

A summary review of Aviation and Airport Development related news and information that was made public during the past week.  Trisha Ton-Nu also contributed to this post.

  • O’Hare Airport hit for safety violations in FAA report. During routine inspections at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago, IL, the Federal Aviation Administration uncovered several violations that endanger airplanes at the most critical phases of flight: takeoffs and landings. In a “letter of correction” to Chicago, the FAA said that O’Hare is out of compliance with federal aviation law and that the airport’s self-inspection program does not reflect actual conditions in the field. The problems noted at O’Hare, considered major violations, have almost all been corrected already and a spokesman for the Chicago Department of Aviation said the rest will be resolved by the end of November. 9/24/09, Jon Hilkevitch, Chicago Tribune, http://bit.ly/xbMHb
  • House votes short-term extension for FAA programs. The House has voted to extend existing air transportation programs through the end of the year, the seventh time in two years that it has had to take temporary measures to prevent certain Federal Aviation Administration programs from shutting down. The Senate is expected to follow with a similar bill as it has struggled to get an FAA bill to the floor this year, due to policy differences and a preoccupation in the Senate with the health care issue. 9/24/09, Jim Abrams, Associated Press, http://bit.ly/L1Wg8
  • FAA clears India’s safety measures. The Federal Aviation Administration’s International Aviation Safety Assessment team recently revisited India to confirm and validate action taken on earlier concerns raised by an audit in March 2009. The IASA team found India fully compliant with international safety standards as it had taken steps to meet the concerns from the March audit, and reported that it could continue to be maintained in Category-I, which means Indian airlines can expand operations in the U.S. and get new points of call and share codes. 9/24/09, Business Standard, http://bit.ly/hauyN
  • AAAE panel mulls lack of long-term FAA reauthorization bill. At the American Association of Airport Executives’ National Airports Conference a panel of industry experts predicted that Congress’ likelihood of passing a long-term Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill is slim at present. The passage of a three- to six-month extension of FAA’s authority and funding is only a short-term response to the September 30, 2009 end of the federal fiscal year, and Kate Lang, the FAA’s associate administrator for airports, pointed out that short-term extensions make it difficult for airports to do multi-year projects and a more stable program is needed. 9/23/09, Aviation News, http://bit.ly/17xURv
  • Former American Chairman and CEO boosts passenger rights proposals. Former American Chairman and CEO Robert Crandall has joined the call for a federally imposed time limit that would give passengers the option to get off a plane that has been stuck on the tarmac for hours, with a four-hour limit initially that would transition to a three-hour limit on January 1, 2011, to give carriers time to adjust their operations. A passenger rights proposal may be closer to passage now more than ever, with organizations like the Business Travel Coalition and the National Business Travel Association giving their support for the passage of such a bill. Senators Barbara Boxer and Olympia Snowe sponsored passenger rights legislation that is currently in the Senate Commerce Committee’s version of the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill, which has yet to be passed. 9/23/09, Andrew Compart, Aviation Daily, http://bit.ly/8Zoor
  • Daley downplays FAA violations at O’Hare. Mayor Richard Daley downplayed Federal Aviation Administration violations recently found at O’Hare International Airport as “not very significant,” declaring that none of the violations deal with the safety of people landing or taking off. He also said that he continues to have confidence in Aviation Commissioner Rosemarie Andolino, and that the city is reviewing and dealing with all of the violations. 9/24/09, Dan Blake, Chicago Tribune, http://bit.ly/P1HlV
  • Senate passes three-month FAA extension. The Senate passed H.R. 3607, a bill that extends FAA programs and excise taxes through December 31, 2009, and awaits President Obama’s signing the measure into law before the current extension expires at the end of the month. 9/24/09, Aviation News, http://bit.ly/VI87A
  • EIS for the CA high-speed train project from Los Angeles to San Diego via the Inland Empire. The FRA and California High-Speed Rail Authority will jointly prepare a project Environmental Impact Statement and Environmental Impact Report for the Los Angeles to San Diego section of the California High-Speed Train System. The preparation of the EIR/EIS will involve developing preliminary engineering designs and assessing potential environmental effects associated with the construction, operation, and maintenance of the High-Speed Train system. Written comments on the scope of the EIR/EIS should be provided to the appropriate authorities by November 20, 2009, or at any of the public scoping meetings scheduled for various cities from October 13, 2009, to November 3, 2009. 9/24/09, TradingMarkets.com, http://bit.ly/2x1bwb
  • FAA Associate Administrator of Aviation Safety Peggy Gilligan’s speech at the ABA Air & Space Forum. In a speech at the American Bar Association’s Air and Space Forum, the Federal Aviation Administration’s Associate Administrator of Aviation Safety Peggy Gilligan stated that safety is the “foundation for public confidence” in aviation. She called for cooperation on safety to ensure the long-term global success of aviation and applauded international cooperation for making great strides over the past 60 years. Ms. Gilligan closed her speech acknowledging that the three-pronged approach in global regulation of aviation that includes holding each other to standards, providing assistance when needed, and proactively identifying and addressing risk, enhances safe air transportation around the world. 9/23/09, Peggy Gilligan, http://bit.ly/ijlZJ
  • AEA joins NATA in opposing foreign repair station language in FAA reauthorization bill. The Aircraft Electronics Association and National Air Transport Association are contacting members of Congress in opposition to foreign repair station provisions in both the House and Senate versions of the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill. Each of the bills contains a provision that requires additional FAA oversight of foreign repair stations, and could eliminate a reciprocal audit provision of the U.S.-European Community Bilateral Aviation Safety Agreement, unnecessarily raising costs for E.U.-based repair stations. U.S. repair stations could also face high job loss if companies that hold a U.S.-based European Aviation Safety Agency Part 145 repair station certificate lose the reciprocal audit capabilities between the FAA and EASA. 9/28/09, National Air Transport Association, http://bit.ly/INtRv
  • California state court rules that FAA Authorization Act preempts CA’s Unfair Competition Law. California Superior Court Judge Elizabeth White held that the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act preempted claims against motor carriers brought under California’s Unfair Competition Law and protected motor carriers from state regulations. The federal law, part of the FAA Authorization Act, prohibits states from enacting and enforcing laws that are related to motor carrier prices, routes, or services, and Judge White held that the attorney general’s case, based on the allegation that the defendants had improperly classified drivers as independent contractors rather than employees, would have a significant effect on motor carrier prices, routes, or services. 9/28/09, Truckinginfo.com News, http://bit.ly/3U9Gkg
  • Carbon offset kiosks at SFO help air travelers ditch guilt. San Francisco International Airport has partnered with a private company to install self-serve kiosks where passengers can purchase carbon offsets for their flights. Carbon offsets for travel are unregulated, however, so it is unsure if patrons are getting what they pay for as the idea is rather abstract. Travelers input the number of miles their trip will cover, how long it will take, and the number of passengers they plan to buy offsets for, and receive a piece of paper representing a fact that their money went toward a carbon-offset project somewhere or that an emission did not occur somewhere else. Though more certainty about an offset is preferred, Professor Michael Wara of Stanford University believes the program is “better than nothing” and the airport hopes that the kiosks raise awareness about the environmental impact of flying. 9/29/09, Rori Gallagher, National Public Radio, http://bit.ly/1j6nyE

 

Why the Airports and the Aviation Industry Need to Be Concerned About Climate Change: Part One, Facts about Aviation and Climate Change

I.        Introduction

In the grand scheme of things, aviation may not represent a huge source of concern with respect to climate change. But neither should the aviation industry (airports included) ignore the fact that aviation does contribute to climate change not only through the emission of carbon dioxide (CO2) but also through the emission of nitrogen oxides (NOx), aerosols and their precursors (soot and sulfate), and increased cloudiness in the form of persistent linear contrails and induced-cirrus cloudiness. The intent of this series of articles is to examine the effect aviation has on climate change, outline the regulatory and legal framework that is developing, and to suggest avenues for the aviation industry to pursue in the future.  The first challenge is to clear up some misconceptions about aviation and climate change so that we can move forward with accurate and up-to-date information.

II.      Some Facts About Aviation and Climate Change

In Aviation and Climate Change: the Views of Aviation Industry Stakeholders, the aviation industry makes several claims regarding the impact aviation has on climate change. First, the industry claims that “over the past four decades, we have improved aircraft fuel efficiency by over 70 percent, resulting in tremendous savings.” As a result, the industry continues, “given the significance of fuel costs to the economic viability of our industry, our economic and environmental goals converge.” Second, the industry claims that “because of our aggressive pursuit of greater fuel efficiency, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from aviation constitute only a very small part of total U.S. GHGs, less than 3 percent.” However, in order to assist the industry in its obligation “to further limit aviation’s greenhouse gas footprint even as aviation grows to meet rising demand for transportation around the world,” those claims of progress need to come under a microscope.

        A.            Contribution of Aviation to Climate Change Remains Subject to Debate

First, how much aviation contributes to climate change is still up to debate. Several governmental and aviation industry organizations have been reporting a “less than 3%” number for quite some time while environmental groups, particularly in Europe, claim that the percentage is anywhere from 5 to 9%. In examining the claims and counterclaims concerning emissions of GHG, one has to be very careful about the language and the metrics used in determining the “impact” any given industry will have on “climate change.” Many reports and studies focus only on CO2, since the amount of CO2 produced both naturally and by humans is overwhelming. However, as just about everyone knows by now, there are other gases and anthropogenic actions that exacerbate climate change. For example, the U.S. EPA recently proposed regulations that would require major emitters of six “greenhouse gases” to report their emissions to the EPA on an annual basis. Those six greenhouse gases are: carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), sulfur hexafluoride (SF6), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorochemicals (PFCs), and other fluorinated 20 gases (e.g., nitrogen trifluoride and hydrofluorinated ethers (HFEs)). It also should be kept in mind when discussing climate change, especially with respect to aviation, that water vapor is estimate contribute anywhere from 36% to 72% of the greenhouse effect. This is important because the radiative forcing effect of cirrus cloud formation from the aircraft is a significant contributor to the greenhouse effect. As pointed out above, it is generally accepted that for aviation the GHGs of concern are CO2, nitrogen oxides (NOx), aerosols and their precursors (soot and sulfate), and increased cloudiness in the form of persistent linear contrails and induced-cirrus cloudiness.

 

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Aviation and Airport Development Updates - September 23, 2009

A summary review of Aviation and Airport Development related news and information that was made public during the past week.  Trisha Ton-Nu also contributed to this post.

  • Honeywell gets FAA okay on runway safety systems.The Federal Aviation Administration has greenlighted Honeywell International Inc.’s SmartRunway and SmartLanding, designed to prevent runway accidents at crowded airports. The systems reinforce standard operating procedures and add “situational awareness” at crowded airports by alerting pilots about runway and taxi locations, unstable approaches and long landings, and when an aircraft is landing too far down the runway to stop safely.  9/16/09, Phoenix Business Journal, http://bit.ly/C3w3B
  • Regulatory abuse by airlines threatens aviation safety. Aircraft Engineers International cites that the largest single cause of the downward trend in aviation safety is the increase in the number of regulatory breaches by airlines that remain uncorrected. Engineers from all over the world will meet in Varna, Bulgaria, from September 23-26, 2009 for the Aircraft Engineers International’s 37th Annual Congress, where they will take a closer look at issues including airlines’ deliberate abuse of aviation regulations to reduce costs, and airworthiness authorities’ adopting a more “hands on” approach to regulation. 9/16/09, Aircraft Engineers International, http://bit.ly/1WQ0gm
  • Feds keep little-used airports in business. Congress has directed $15 billion from an obscure federal program that raises billions of dollars a year through taxes on every airplane ticket sold in the United States to general-aviation airports. General-aviation airports have no scheduled passenger flights and operate separately from the commercial airports that handle almost all passenger flights, and comprise the world’s most expansive and expensive network of airports. Critics contend that the number of subsidized airports with no commercial flights is excessive at a time when larger airports are struggling with delays in air traffic, and that only a few private pilots are benefited. Local residents have also complained about the noise and pollution generated by the little-used airports. 9/17/09, Thomas Frank, USA Today, http://bit.ly/5icdM
  • FAA announces new efforts to respond to safety concerns. Federal Aviation Administrator Randy Babbitt announced that the FAA has a new focus on improving the agency’s response to public safety complaints and whistleblower contributions, as well as renewing efforts to ensure consistent interpretation of agency regulations and policies. The FAA will also improve how it communicates and interacts with employees, the public, air carriers, and manufacturers. Administrator Babbitt stated that the FAA’s “number-one customer” is the public, and is implementing changes in communication and interpretation of safety information to maintain a safe U.S. fleet and avoid cancellations. 9/17/09, FAA Press Release, http://bit.ly/RaNXC
  • FAA launches new accident prevention office. The Federal Aviation Administration’s Office of Aviation Safety launched a new Accident Investigation and Prevention Service that will integrate the work of the Offices of Accident Investigation and Safety Analytical Services. The new organization will consolidate resources and data from accident and incident investigations, historical accidents and incidents, and voluntarily submitted information from industry programs so the FAA can better understand current risks across the aviation community, and identify emerging vulnerabilities and trends. 9/17/09, FAA Press Release, http://bit.ly/Ifx2M
  • DOT fines Spirit Airlines for violating bumping and other rules. The Department of Transportation has fined Spirit Airlines $375,000 for various rule violations, including bumping passengers from oversold flights without compensating them and failing to resolve baggage claims within a reasonable time. The DOT’s action is being lauded for clearly protecting airline consumers against unfair and deceptive practices, which is a stated part of the Department’s mission. 9/17/09, Official Blog of the U.S. Secretary of Transportation, http://bit.ly/1s4ru5
  • Mountain Home Air Force Base wants more air space. Officials at Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho have asked the Federal Aviation Administration to expand the base’s air space deeper into Oregon and Nevada, saying that the expansion would double the effectiveness of the air space and training offered there and potentially making the base more attractive as a future training site for jets more modern and faster than the jets currently housed at the base. If approved, the expansion would increase the air space by nearly 30 percent from the more than 187 square miles the range complex currently covers. 9/17/09, The Associated Press, http://bit.ly/WkklS
  • UAL names Jane Garvey to Board of Directors. United Airlines announced that Jane Garvey, former administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration and President Obama advisor, will be joining the company’s Board of Directors. She was the first woman appointed to the role of FAA administrator and served on the transition team for President Obama, which focused on transportation policies and related infrastructure challenges. She has also advised states on financing strategies to facilitate project delivery for state governments and served as acting administrator and deputy administrator for the Federal Highway Administration. 9/17/09, PRNewswire, http://bit.ly/Bcn5o
  • FAA reauthorization bill pushed back in Senate. The Senate will not pass a Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill by September 30, the time the current bill will expire, and both the House and Senate will have to agree to an extension. The bill is being pushed back for an “inevitable fight” over a labor provision that FedEx adamantly opposes. Jay Rockefeller, chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, wants final passage of the bill postponed but wants the bill considered sometime during this calendar year. 9/17/09, Bartholomew Sullivan, Memphis Commercial Appeal, http://bit.ly/Qn3sI
  • FAA will stop calling airlines “customers.” In a response to complaints that the agency’s relationship with airlines was placing the industry’s economic interests above passenger safety, Federal Aviation Administrator Randy Babbitt has said that the FAA will stop calling airlines “customers.” Administrator Babbitt listed several short- and long-term actions, including making the agency’s engineers available around the clock to support safety inspectors assigned to airlines, to improve airline compliance. A spokesman for the Air Transport Association is optimistic, believing the steps will lead to more succinct instructions for incorporating safety directives and leave less chance for technical ambiguity over compliance. 9/17/09, Joan Lowy, http://bit.ly/21aGlT
  • FAA OK’s first step of privatizing New Orleans airport. The Federal Aviation Administration has accepted a preliminary application to lease Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, Louisiana’s largest commercial airport, to a private operator. Under a private operation program approved by Congress, an airport with a private manager could continue to receive FAA funds and grants and collect fees and charges, and the city could use lease proceeds for non-aviation purposes after money was set aside for airport debt service. Up to five public airports have been allowed to participate in the program, and Chicago’s Midway Airport is also considering a privatization plan. The program was started in 1997 to explore privatization as a way of generating private capital for airport projects.  9/17/09, The Associated Press, http://bit.ly/25Neo1
  • IATA Director General asks Obama to make aviation policy a priority. International Air Transport Association Director General Giovanni Bisignani wants the Obama administration to renew its role as a leader in the global aviation industry and make aviation policy a priority. Director General Bisignani has presented several policy recommendations to help in the recovery of the U.S. aviation industry in the areas of safety, security, environment and commercial freedoms, which include putting the NextGen system on a “fast track” to reduce delays at airports and airport emissions. 9/18/09, San Francisco Foreign Policy Examiner, http://bit.ly/LpoGt
  • Boston airport prepares nation’s first green runway. Boston’s Logan International Airport is nearly finished repaving the first runway in the nation with an environmentally friendly material called warm-mix asphalt. The asphalt is heated to a lower temperature than normal, and burns less fuel and emits less carbon. 9/19/09, The Associated Press, http://bit.ly/2XqAhb
  • Will a bigger runway boost the local economy? Carroll County government officials argue that the new, $72 million runway at Carroll County Regional Airport “won’t hurt” in attracting new businesses. Primarily paid for by the Federal Aviation Administration, the new runway will be longer and will have wider separation between the taxiway and runway, making it safer to land there and potentially able to handle more corporate jets. A spokesman for the National Business Aviation Administration said having an airport that can handle corporate aircraft is attractive to companies thinking about where to locate some or all of their businesses, but opponents of the project remain skeptical about the economic benefits or oppose the new runway because of the cost. 9/20/09, Adam Bednar, Carroll County Times, http://bit.ly/y2dix
  • Commentary from Federal Times: Charting a new path for the FAA. Dave Bowen, chief information officer for the Federal Aviation Administrator, states that the FAA’s NextGen initiative will enable digital communication, and digital weather modeling and other capabilities, while supporting a level of air traffic more safely, efficiently, and effectively than current levels. NextGen technology includes Wide Area Augmentation, which provides an additional degree of accuracy and reliability, and Traffic Information Service - Broadcast, which combine together into Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast. With ADS-B, an aircraft would broadcast its Global Positioning System position and receive the broadcasts of other similarly equipped aircraft. While the FAA is working with airlines to get them to put ADS-B equipment in their aircraft, the NextGen initiative as a whole is the “path to the future” for the FAA. 9/21/09, Dave Bowen, Federal Times, http://bit.ly/24CZjo
  • FAA approves first U.S. ground based augmentation system. The Federal Aviation Administration has approved Honeywell’s Smartpath Precision Landing System, which would provide precise navigation service based on the global positioning system. The ground based augmentation system augments GPS by providing precision approach guidance to all qualifying runways at an airport by monitoring GPS signals to detect errors and improve accuracy by transmitting correction measures to aircraft. GBAS has been identified as an enabler for descent and approach operations to increase capacity at crowded airports and will be improved over the next few years. 9/21/09, FAA Press Release, http://bit.ly/10xNLl
  • Senator Barbara Boxer says airline passenger bill of rights is coming. Senator Barbara Boxer says that passengers’ rights legislation is popular in Congress and likely to pass, even over airline industry objections. The senator’s bill would require airlines to provide food, water, and bathrooms to passengers stranded on flights and would force airlines to allow passengers off planes after three hours of sitting. The legislation is currently included in the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill. Airlines have fought customer-service legislation for over ten years, but Senator Boxer has drawn support from former AMR Corp. and American Airlines chairman Robert Crandall, who believes new rules can be implemented without compromising safety. 9/22/09, Scott McCartney, http://bit.ly/cOau1

IATA goal of halving emissions by 2050 over 2005 levels. The International Air Transport Association stated its goal of cutting emissions in half by 2050 over 2005 levels, through a four-part approach of technology, operational improvements, infrastructure upgrades, and “economic measures.” The airlines plan to present plans by November 2010 to begin trading carbon credits on a global market as part of a global approach to the issue, and to improve carbon efficiency by 1.5% annually through 2020 and show carbon-neutral growth from 2020 onwards. The industry is on pace to improve carbon efficiency by 1.8% this year, but it is worth noting that with fuel being among the largest expenses at an airline, carriers have a clear and immediate incentive to pursue such gains. 9/22/09, Justin Bachman, BusinessWeek, http://bit.ly/17QP9U

 

Passengers Detained Have Constitutional and Other Legal Rights

The airlines are at it again! This time it’s Continental Express, Flight 2816, detaining passengers in the aircraft, without food, water or adequate sanitary facilities on the tarmac in Rochester, Minnesota, for an unbelievable six (6) hours before freeing them to enter the terminal (not counting another 2.5 hours wait to board the same plane to complete their trip to Minneapolis, only 85 miles away).

There is no doubt that the airline acted stupidly and irresponsibly by not providing a bus to complete the trip, or allowing the passengers back into the terminal. Ultimately, however, it’s the fault of the passengers who allowed themselves to be treated in that fashion. As Chevalier, Allen & Lichman has stated in prior postings (see, “Trapped Airline Passengers Have Rights,” posted April 7, 2008), the airlines when faced with this situation have three choices:

  1. Take off if its safe to do so;
  2. If not, allow passengers to leave the aircraft and/or provide alternate transportation or hotel facilities; or,
  3. Face legal action brought by passengers for violation of the 4th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, as well as potential state law causes of action such as false imprisonment.

First, it is true that airlines are not allowed to operate when conditions are unsafe such as during inclement weather or when the safety of the passengers is at stake (for example, during the recent bomb scare at LaGuardia). Therefore, where the existence of such conditions can be established, the airline is justified in waiting on the ground until, but only until, the Federal Aviation Administration’s (“FAA”) Air Traffic Control allows it to join a queue for takeoff. Sometimes this takes over two hours. If you have any doubt, call FAA at 1-866-TELL-FAA (1-866-835-5322). That office will know whether conditions at the origin or destination require the delay. The usual problem at this stage is lack of communication from the flight crew. It is far more commonplace to see them talking among themselves than sharing status updates with their paying customers. A radical change in company policies regarding passenger communication would go far in remedying passenger unrest.

Second, when even the normal communication doesn’t seem to be accurate or timely, and you have run out of patience, you may calmly and politely confront the crew with the choice of taking off, or, alternatively, allowing passengers to exit the aircraft. This is where individual responsibility kicks in. If no one asks, the crew has no reason to act. After all, FAA regulations require that the crew leave the plane when its federally mandated shift is up. They will get out even if you can’t. Most importantly, decline to take “no” for an answer. Poll the other passengers, and if there is a consensus that the time already spent is unreasonable and unjustified, and conditions on the plane are deteriorating to the point of health concern, get off the plane, either through the normal exits or through the emergency exit. After all, it is an emergency, isn’t it?

Finally, and most important, don’t be afraid that, by taking these steps, you will be violating the law. In fact, in our view, it is the airline and, by extension, the governmental entities that finance and operate the airport that are violating the law. Specifically, airlines operate on government funded facilities. Airports are funded 80-90% by the federal government and the remainder partially by state and local governments, with the airlines paying for part of the remainder. The tarmac upon which passengers are detained, as well as the Air Traffic Controllers who may provide the rationale for that detention are government funded. Consequently, substantially all activities on an airport may be subject to federal and state statutes including the U.S. Constitution.

The Fourth Amendment prohibits arrest and/or detention without probable cause or the consent of the detained. It is therefore doubly important to protest the detention so as to prevent acquiescence from being construed as consent. Finally, state statutes such as those prohibiting false imprisonment may also apply. However, there would certainly be an argument that such state statutes are preempted by federal law.  In the absence of comprehensive federal legislation addressing the issue of unlawful detention on aircraft, the preemption argument would likely fail. 

In short, it is not essential to the vindication of passengers’ rights that Congress pass a new statute or a “Passengers’ Bill of Rights,” because we already have a Bill of Rights that applies. However some support from Congress, for example, in legislating a limit on the number of hours passengers can be detained would show the public that their representatives are there for them and not just for campaign contributions from airline lobbyists.

Most important, if you’re “mad as hell” you “don’t have to take it anymore.” The public need not cower from taking all legal steps necessary to defend its own rights and welfare against the airlines who wrongfully cloak themselves in governmental authority without accepting governmental responsibility.

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U.S. House Transportation Committee Introduce Aviation Safety BIll

On Wednesday, July 29, 2009, the bipartisan leadership of both the Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure and the Subcommittee on Aviation introduced H.R. 3371, the "Aviation Safety Bill" designed to "enhance airline safety by setting new training and service standards for commercial pilots."  This bill came primarily as a response to the Senate Commerce Committee's passage of its version of the FAA Reauthorization Bill (S. 1451), which included aviation safety measures such as a call for the National Academy of Sciences to conduct a study on pilot fatigue and requiring the FAA to establish and maintain a pilot employment, training, and testing database.

After the passage of the House FAA Reauthorization Bill (H.R. 915), hearings were held regarding aviation safety, particularly in response to the crash of Flight 3407 in Buffalo, New York.  As ranking member Thomas E. Petri (R-Wis.) stated at the press conference announcing the bill: "the Buffalo crash and the subsequent Aviation Subcommittee hearing revealed some troubling questions in terms of training, development, and the working environment of pilots - particularly at regional airlines."

The Press Release from the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee indicated that the bill:

  • Requires FAA to ensure that pilots are trained on stall, recovery, upset recovery, and that airlines provide remedial training;
  • requires airline pilots to hold an FAA Airline Transport Pilot license (1,500 minimum flight hours required);
  • Establishes comprehensive pre-employment screening or prospective pilots including an assessment of pilot's skills, aptitudes, airmanship and suitability for functioning in the airline's operational environment;
  • Requires airlines to establish pilot mentoring program, create Pilot Professional Development Committees, modify training to accommodate new-hire pilots with different levels and types of flight experience, and provide leadership and command training to pilots in command;
  • Directs FAA to update and implement a new pilot flight and duty time rule and fatigue risk management plans to more adequately track scientific research in the field of fatigue.  It also requires air carriers to create fatigue risk management systems approved by FAA.
  • Requires the Department of Transportation Inspector General to study and report to Congress on whether the number and experience level of safety inspectors assigned to regional airlines is commensurate with that of mainline airlines;
  • Mandates that the first page of an internet website that sells airline tickets disclose the air carrier that operates each segment of the flight;
  • Directs a National Academy of Sciences study on pilot commuting and fatigue,;and
  • Requires the Secretary of Transportation to provide an annual report to Congress on what the agency is doing to address each open National Transportation Safety Board recommendation pertaining to commercial air carriers.

Once the Senate FAA Reauthorization bill is voted on (and presumably passed) by the full Senate in the Fall, this bill along with H.R. 915, will go to House-Senate conference committee.

President Obama Calls for Review of Bush-Era Regulation Regarding Scientific Consultation on Endangered Species Act Concerns

President Obama took a huge step toward reversing the Bush Administration's recently promulgated regulation allowing Federal agencies to forego consultation with the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service with respect to whether the Federal agencies' activities will have an impact on the Endangered Species Act.  In his memo to "Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies," President Obama requests that the Departments of Interior and Commerce "to review the regulation issued on December 16, 2008, and to determine whether to undertake new rulemaking procedures with respect to consultative and concurrence processes that will promote the purposes of the ESA."

Since the Bush Administration rule was issued as a regulation, President Obama cannot through the use of an Executive Order rescind or overturn the regulation.  Thus, as an interim measure President Obama asked "the heads of all agencies to exercise their discretion, under the new regulation, to follow the prior longstanding consultation and concurrence practices involving the FWS and NMFS."

As a side note, it should be pointed out that the Senate is currently considering an Omnibus Appropriations Bill from the House that would allow the Obama Administration to rescind both the ESA rule and a rule issued in conjunction with last year's listing of the polar bear as threatened under the ESA.  That rule exempted greehouse gas emissions and oil devleopment from regulation under the ESA even if they harmed the bears and their melting habitat.

Full text of President Obama's Memorandum, as reported by the L.A. Times, follows on the next page.

Previous related Posts:

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U.S. House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Holds Hearings on FAA Reauthorization Bill

The U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure has proposed H.R. 915, the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2009.  Since funding authorization for aviation programs and authorization for taxes and fees that provide revenue for the FAA expired at the end of fiscal year 2007 and revenue collections and FAA programs have been extended several times (until March 31, 2009), this bill is a priority item for the FAA. What follows is a summary of the provisions of the Reauthorization Bill.

Funding & Financing

  • Taxes on aviation users will be increased - Passenger flight segment tax increased to $3.60; International departure and arrival taxes increased to $16.10; Alaska Hawaii facilities tax increased to $8.00.
  • Provides historic funding levels for the FAA’s programs between 2009 and 2012, including $16.2 billion for AIP; $13.4 billion for Facilities and Equipment; $38.9 billion for operations; and $1.35 billion for Research, Engineering and Development.

Airports

  • Makes several modifications to the current AIP distribution formula that provide significant increases in AIP funding for smaller airports, which are particularly reliant on AIP for capital financing, as well as more AIP discretionary funding.
  • Increases Passenger Facility Charge from $4.50 to $7.00.  This provision was strongly supported by Jim Elwood, representing the American Association of Airport Executives.

ATC Modernization and NextGen

  • Provides $13.4 billion for the FAA's Facilities and Equipment account.
  • Increases the authority and visibility of the Joint Planning and Development Office.
  • Requires the JPDO to develop a work plan that details, on a year-by-year basis, specific NextGen-related deliverables and milestones.
  • FAA wants to emphasize "infrastructure" improvements at the nations' airports, which includes a full roll-out of NextGen.

Safety

  • Includes several safety provisions, such as authorizing additional funds for runway incursion reduction programs and the acquisition and installation of runway status lights.
  • Increases the number of aviation safety inspectors and requires safety inspections of foreign repair stations at least twice a year.
  • Directs FAA to commence a rulemaking to ensure that covered maintenance work on air carrier aircraft is performed by part 145 repair stations or part 121 air carriers.
  • Creates an independent Aviation Safety Whistleblower Investigation Office within the FAA charged with receiving safety complaints and information submitted by both FAA employees and employees of certificated entities.
  • Directs FAA to modify its “customer service initiative” to remove air carriers or other entities regulated by the FAA as “customers.”
  • Adds a two-year “post-service” cooling off period for FAA inspectors and requires principal maintenance inspectors to rotate between airline oversight offices every five years.

Small Communities

  • Increases the total amount authorized for Essential Air Services each year from $127 million to $200 million.
  • Requires 50% of over-flight fees collected in excess of $50 million be dedicated to EAS.
  • Authorizes the Secretary to enter into long-term EAS contracts that would provide more stability for participating air carriers.
  • Reduces local share of AIP projects from 10% to 5% for economically depressed communities.
  • Includes several provisions to mitigate the effects of increases in aviation fuel costs by increasing the existing $200 per passenger subsidy cap.
  • Extends the Small Community Air Service Development Program through fiscal year 2011, at the current authorized funding level of $35 million per year.

Consumer Protections

  • Includes several provisions to ensure passenger needs are met including a mandate that air carriers and airports submit emergency contingency plans and detail in their plans how they allow passengers to deplane following excessive delays.
  • DOT is required to publicize and maintain a hotline for consumer complaints, establish an Advisory Committee for Aviation Consumer Protection, expand consumer complaints investigated, and require air carriers to report diverted and canceled flight information monthly.
  • DOT Inspector General is asked to report on the causes of air carrier flight delays and cancellations.

Environmental Provisions

  • Includes several provisions related to the environment, noise mitigation and land use initiatives, including:
    • An environmental mitigation pilot program;
    • The phasing out of noisy Stage II aircraft;
    • An aircraft departure queue management pilot program;
    • Broadened AIP eligibility to include several energy saving terminal projects; and
    • Requirements for the FAA to build sustainable air traffic control facilities.
  • Allows airport operators to reinvest the proceeds from the sale of land that an airport acquired for a noise compatibility purpose, but no longer needs for that purpose, giving priority, in descending order to:
    • Reinvestment in another noise compatibility project;
    • Environmentally-related project
    • Another otherwise-eligible AIP project;
    • Transfer to another public airport for a noise compatibility project; or
    • Payment to the Trust Fund.
  • Provides authorization for the Continuous Lower Energy, Emissions and Noise (“CLEEN”) Engine and Airframe Technology partnership to develop, mature and certify CLEEN engine and airframe technology for aircraft over the next 10 years.

Labor

  • Modifies the dispute resolution process for proposed changes to the FAA personnel management system, and replaces it with a new dispute resolution process.
  • Applies the new dispute resolution process to the ongoing dispute between NATCA and the FAA. That is the changes implemented by the FAA on and after July 10, 2005, would be null and void and the parties will be governed by their last mutual agreement.
  • Amends the Railway Labor Act to clarify that employees of an “express carrier” shall only be covered by the RLA if they are employed in a position that is eligible for certification under FAA’s rules and they are actually performing that type of work for the express carrier.
  • Requires an assessment of training programs for controllers and air traffic technicians.
  • Requires that FAA include employee unions as stakeholders in the development and planning for NextGen.
  • Requires the establishment of a Task Force on Air Traffic Control Facility Conditions to determine whether employees are exposed to dangerous environmental conditions in their work place.
  • Requires the Secretary to establish within the FAA a working group to develop criteria and make recommendations for the realignment and consolidation of services and facilities.

Aviation Insurance

  • Extends requirement until September 30, 2012, that the FAA provide U.S. airlines’ aviation insurance from the first dollar of loss at capped premium rates, after which the requirement becomes discretionary until September 30, 2019.
  • After December 31, 2019, such insurance must be provided instead by airline industry-sponsored risk-sharing arrangement approved by the Secretary.

Next Article: Summary of Comments regarding Safety Provisions.

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The Camel's Nose of Self-Interest Under the Tent of Environmental Regulation

The California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”) is once again under attack.  Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, in a letter to President-Elect Obama, has conditioned agreement to a budget reconciliation package on the suspension of CEQA compliance for 10 highway projects, ranging from carpool lanes on Routes 50 in Sacramento and 805 in San Diego, to road widenings in Fresno and San Joaquin, to a fourth bore in the Caldecott Tunnel in San Francisco.  The Governor’s initiative is already under siege from myriad environmental organizations including the Sierra Club, the Planning and Conservation League and the National Resources Defense Council.

The Governor partially justifies his actions on the grounds that most of the projects would have to comply with the Federal equivalent of CEQA, the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”).  The well hidden flaw in the Governor’s argument is that he has requested that President-Elect Obama provide funding for the projects under various Federal statutes, and simultaneously suspend Federal environmental compliance standards as well.

The Governor’s proposal has far reaching implications.  First, and most obvious, are the potentially undocumented and unanalyzed, but nonetheless significant, noise and air quality implications of highway expansions.  Second, the decision as to what projects to exempt from environmental review would be made by a commission of executive appointees who would be charged with picking and choosing, without legislative oversight.  As we are all painfully aware, “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Finally, the Governor’s initiatives need not be limited to highways.  If the development and/or expansion of airports are granted the same reprieve from environmental regulations as that currently envisioned for highway projects, on the pretext that it is necessary to ensure California’s financial integrity, the sky is literally the limit for environmental impacts around dozens of airports including Los Angeles International Airport, San Diego International Airport and San Francisco International Airport.

CEQA has successfully fought of such attacks in the past.  It is critical, however, that those persons and entities that will be impacted by the proposed suspension of environmental regulations, either now or in the future, contact the Governor’s office at (916) 445-2841 or by sending him an e-mail, and/or their State Legislator, to register their firm opposition to such an opportunistic, but ultimately ineffective solution to California’s budget woes.
 

Skipping Consultations Regarding Endangered Species Okay with Bush Administration

On Thursday, December 11, 2008, the Bush Administration issued final regulations that will allow federal agencies to skip having to consult with either the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Marine Fisheries Services before making a determination that no harm will come to an endangered species.  This change will have an impact on projects at airports that use federal funds.

In his prepared statement announcing the final regulations, Interior Secretary, Dirk Kempthorne emphasized that the responsibility to initiate consultation will still be with the federal agency undertaking the action.  The only difference, he stated, was when the federal agency determined that when:

  • an action is not anticipated to harass, harm, kill or otherwise “take” a listed species; and
  • The action has no effect what-so-ever on a listed species or critical habitat, such as replacing a culvert when the species is not present; or
  • The action is completely and totally beneficial, such as expanding the no hiking zone from 15 yards to 30 yards around nesting sites; or
  • The effects of the action are so insignificant that they can’t be detected or measured, such as when a federal project generates noise at such low levels that scientists can’t accurately detect its harm to a species; or
  • The effects of the action are the result of global processes that are too broad to measure.

This, however, is a marked change from the current rule where federal agencies first determine if their proposed action may affect a listed species or critical habitat.  If so, they must then proceed with either formal or informal consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Marine Fisheries Service.

How will this affect airport planning?  Since compliance with the Endangered Species Act is part of NEPA requirements, all Environmental Impact Statements are required to state whether the FAA has consulted with the Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Marine Fisheries Service and indicate their response.  Under the new rule, the FAA can make its own determination that the proposed action (i.e., runway expansion, terminal project, etc.) will not harm any endangered species.  The question remains, however, whether federal agencies, like the FAA, have the resources to make such a determination.  Moreover, because the FAA is not an expert in the field of endangered species, it will, most likely, provide another avenue of attack for opponents to a particular proposed project.

An Interior Department spokesman, Chris Paolino, said that the regulations were an "attempt to refocus the resouces, time and manpower of both the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries to focus on those projects that have a measurable, adverse impact on endangered species."

Needless to say, environmental groups were not too pleased that in the last hours of the Bush Administration

Andrew Wetzler, Director of the Natural Resources Defense Council's Endangered Species Program, commented on the NRDC's website:

This administration has rejected anything with a whiff of science -- so before sulking out the back door, they are going after rules that require Fish and Wildlife Service scientists to prevent harm to our last wild animals and places. Despite today’s feel-good statements, we remain convinced that these changes are illegal. We will look at the final language when it is published tomorrow, but I think we will see them in court.
Likewise, the National Wildlife Federation did not have anything good to say about the new regulations.  John Kostyack, Executive Director of Wildlife and Global Warming for the National Wildlife Federation, said:
This action eviscerates key protections that have helped safeguard and recover endangered fish, wildlife and plants for the past 35 years.
Our government is founded in a system of checks, balances and accountability.  President Bush has violated each of these principles by finalizing this rule in his waning days of power.
Word from the President-Elect's camp is that they will rok to reverse the changes, but since the regulations go into effect before the President-Elect takes office, his administration will have to reopen the rulemaking process.

California Air Resources Board Approves Scoping Plan for Implementation of AB 32

The California Air Resources Board unanimously adopted its Scoping Plan to implement the sweeping changes in greenhouse gas emission dictated by AB 32.

As envisaged by the Scoping Plan, the state's greenhouse gas emissions would be cut by 15% over the next 12 years.  Although it seems to lay out targets for most sectors of the economy, there are some sectors that are missing, like aircraft and airports. All told,  it amounts to an average cut of four tons of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases for every person in the state.

The Scoping Plan, which  will be implemented over the next two years, puts California at the forefront of national climate policy at a time when President-elect Barack Obama has vowed to put control of greenhouse gas emissions at the top of his environmental agenda.

Past posts on this topic:

FAA's 2009-2013 Flight Plan Includes 5 More Airports Due for an Airspace Redesign

On October 28, 2008, Acting FAA Administrator Bobby Sturgell rolled out the FAA's 2009-20013 "Flight Plan" at a speech in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.  The "Flight Plan," in which FAA sets goals for itself, is "the strategic plan for the agency, the plan to help [the agency] prepare for the future."  In the past year, for example, as Acting Administrator Sturgell pointed out, the FAA "reached 25 out of 29 goals," with the remaining goals "probably" being achieved by November 20, 2008.  In other words, the goals set in the Flight Plan are projects and issues that the FAA has good reason to believe it can achieve over the stated planning horizon.

Priority one, according to the Flight Plan, is "dealing with congestion and delays . . . both in the air and on the ground.  Toward that end, the FAA plans to "identify and address capacity-constrained airports and metropolitan areas."  The FAA has identified Atlanta, Chicago Midway, Fort Lauderdale, John Wayne Orange County (CA), Las Vegas, Long Beach, Oakland, Phoenix, San Diego and San Francisco as being "capacity constrained" and provided these airports with a "toolbox" which includes "technological, procedural, and infrastructure improvements to be considered for implementation at airports based on additional capacity needs in the future."

In addition, in FY 2009, the FAA plans to "increase aviation capacity and reduce congestion in the 7 metro areas and corridors that most affect total system delay."  Those areas are:  San Francisco, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Chicago, Charlotte, New York and Philadelphia.  Apart from continuing the controversial airspace redesign for the New York/New Jersey/Philadelphia Metropolitan area, and the slot auctions for JFK, Newark and LaGuardia, which all spawned lawsuits, the FAA plans on moving forward with the redesign of the airspace for the remaining 7 metro areas.

 

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California Air Resources Board Seeks Comments on Its Climate Change Proposed Scoping Plan

The Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (AB 32) designated the California Air Resources Board (CARB) as the lead agency for  its implementation.  The next milestone for CARB is developing a Scoping Plan outlining California's strategy to achieve the 2020 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions limit.  So on October 15, 2008, CARB published its Climate Change Proposed Scoping Plan:  A Framework for Change.  The Scoping Plan contains the main strategies California will use to reduce the greenhouse gases that cause climate change. Since this plan has the potential to affect just about every sector of California, CARB is seeking the public's comments.  Comments on the Scoping Plan are due no later than December 10, 2008.  The Scoping Plan will be presented for approval at the CARB’s December 11, 2008, meeting

The Scoping Plan proposes a comprehensive set of actions designed to reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions in California.  Among the solutions it proposes are "improving our state's infrastructure, transitioning to cleaner and more secure sources of energy, and adopting 21st century land use planning and development practices."  Moreover, CARB lists as the key elements of its recommendations:

  • Establishing targets for transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions for regions throughout California, and pursuing policies and incentives to achieve those targets;
  • Developing a California cap-and-trade program that links with other Western Climate Initiative partner programs to create a regional market system; including California's clean car standards, goods and movement measures, and the Low Carbon Fuel Standard;
  • Adopting and implementing measures pursuant to existing State laws and policies,
  • Expanding and strengthening existing energy efficiency programs as well as building and appliance standards;
  • Achieving a statewide renewables energy mix of 33 percent; and
  • Creating targeted fees, including a public goods charge on water use, fees on high global warming potential gases, and a fee to fund the administrative costs of the State's long term commitment to AB 32 implementation.

Noticeably absent from the Scoping Plan is any mention of airports or aircraft.  This is due to the CARB's perceived inability  to do much about airports and aircraft due to FAA's pre-empting the field.  Indeed, about the only mention of airports and aircraft in the AB 32 materials comes in Appendix C of the Draft Scoping Plan:

Emissions from the fuel used in planes is an important consideration, however, the State does not have regulatory authority over aviation. ARB has not identified aviation specific measures; however, successful deployment of High Speed Rail could divert some air passengers to rail.

Draft Proposed Scoping Plan, Appendix C, p. C-21.  Nor does the Scoping Plan take the emissions of aircraft have while they are in air.

As a final note, there will be a public hearing on the Scoping Plan on November 20, 2008, in Sacramento, to consider the AB 32 Scoping Plan to reduce Greenhouse Gas emissions in California.  Click here for the Agenda.

 

California's Proposal for Interim Significance Thresholds for Greenhouse Gases Will Affect Airport Planning

As part of the California Air Resources Board's (CARB) "Climate Change Proposed Scoping Plan," the Board, on October 24, 2008, released its Preliminary Draft Staff Proposal on recommended approaches for setting Interim significance thresholds for greenhouse gases under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).  Since these thresholds of significance will affect the conduct of EIRs for projects subject to CEQA, such as airport development projects and Airport Land Use Compatibility Plans, participation in the setting of these standards is critical.

California law provides that climate change is an environmental effect subject to the CEQA.  Lead agencies, such as Airport Land Use Commissions, are therefore obligated to determine whether a project's climate change-related effects may be significant, thereby requiring preparation of an Environmental Impact Report and to impose feasible mitigation to substantially lessen any significant effects.

CARB is specifically requesting participation from the public stakeholders and local lead agencies.  The Preliminary Draft Staff Proposal suggests a "sector approach" due to the fact that "(1) some sectors contribute more substantially to the problem, and therefore should have a greater obligation for emissions reductions, and (2) looking forward, there are differing levels of emissions reductions expected from different sectors in or to meet California's climate objectives."

The PDSP includes flowcharts that address CARB's "threshold concepts" for industrial projects and for residential and commercial projects.  The PDSP also states that that the staff is working on a proposal for an interim approach for thresholds for transportation projects.  CARB proposes, for example, a significance threshold of 7,000 metric tons of CO2e/year.  For Projects that go over that amount, an EIR would have to be prepared and "all feasible GHG mitigation measures implemented."

CARB has identified a few questions to solicit public comment, but notes that the "list is not exhaustive."

  • Will the recommended approaches have any unintended consequences, for example, encouraging the piecemealing of projects?
  • As set out in the attachments to the Staff Proposal, staff proposes to define certain performance standards (e.g., for energy efficiency) by referencing or compiling lists from existing local, State or national standards.  For some sub-sources of GHG emissions (e.g., construction, transportation, waste), ARB staff has not identified reference standards.  How should the performance standards for these sub-sources be defined?
  • Are any of the industrial, residential, or commercial project types eligible for categorical exemptions likely to contribute more significantly to climate change than staff's preliminary analysis indicates?
  • For residential and commercial projects, staff has proposed that the GHG emissions of some projects that meet GHG performance standards might under some circumstances still be considered cumulatively considerable and therefore significant.  What types of projects might still have climate change-related impacts?

As noted above, since these thresholds of significance will affect the conduct of EIRs for projects subject to CEQA, such as airport development projects and Airport Land Use Compatibility Plans, participation in the setting of these standards is critical.