A Letter To Adam Smith Re. HR 6168

Dear Congressman,

As I wrote you on 24 March re. ANCA, I want to thank you for all your help for airport communities.

I now have the following comments ahead of your August 27 Meeting with our communities.


I am very concerned about the definition and structure of ‘community’ and who will be designated as official representatives.

Around SeaTac Airport it is the city governments themselves which have been among the least helpful in advocating for residents’ needs.  There has been an appearance of engagement, but not in fact, a true effort to try and help residents. Partly because of the Third Runway debacle and the sense of the Port Of Seattle’s tremendous influence, few lawmakers are willing to put in a real effort to improve the situation.

In Des Moines, the City Council has outsourced nearly all its efforts to a few individuals and thus created de facto ‘representation’ which does not have the support of the people most affected by the Port Of Seattle.

My concern would be that your law would empower the City Of Des Moines (and the other airport cities) to designate only a single organization to represent residents with the FAA and thus continue to enable the City’s half-hearted agenda.

In my town, the people most harmed by the Port Of Seattle are the 174 homeowners I represent with damaged Port Packages. These residents feel abandoned by the City and will have nothing to do with their representatives. The same is true of many, many others in SeaTac and Burien; they have no trust in local government advocating on their behalf or the local Quiet Skies group which is their de facto liaison with ‘the community’.

In short, there needs to be a method for citizens and groups with no affiliation with local government to be heard and to be given equal weight to any local government or affiliated organization. Because its those ‘unaffiliated’ people who are often the people who are the real stakeholders.

I wish this were not the case, but the local politics are so fraught that this is the only way to properly represent the community until such time as public trust can be regained for those local governments. In the meantime, your bill must act as a backstop to make sure that all voices are heard.


I am impressed by much of HR6168, however, I want to encourage you once again to look at ANCA itself.

The core problem for all the airport communities across the U.S. is the one paragraph in ANCA which precludes any limitation on where, when and how often planes can fly.  This makes any substantive improvement to the quality of life of residents almost impossible. You can improve sound insulation and add air filters, but until you give back at least some control of the frequency and routing of flights to the people on the ground you are, forgive me, pissing into the wind.

ANCA was passed in 1990 at the height of the ‘pro growth’ period of American economic theory. Just last week, the Business Roundtable passed a resolution, changing their thinking on corporate growth for the first time in fifty years. They have now returned to the sane belief that expansion without concern for other stakeholders (including communities) is not healthy, either economically, socially or environmentally.

But the aviation industry, being governed by the FAA and with almost no constraints from the Environmental Protection Agency, has always carved out a unique position of privilege.

For example, when our own Governor Jay Inslee signed on to the carbon tax referendum I-1631 he explicitly included an exception for aviation and marine fuels. Several lawmakers directly acknowledged that it was lobbying by the Port Of Seattle that made that carve-out necessary. (So much for the ‘Environmental Candidate’)

But things are changing. Your support of ‘The Green New Deal’ means that you recognise that growth cannot amount to the be-all and end-all for every industry, and those constraints should include Sea-Tac Airport.

Therefore I strongly urge you to re-visit my suggestion to work towards modifying ANCA to allow communities to once again have a voice in the timing, frequency and routing of flight operations. The time has come for the exceptionalism of commercial aviation to end.

In short, the current law keeps all enforcement of noise complaints with the FAA. The proposed changes simply revert the law to the pre-1990 state, where affected entities (classes, cities) could directly seek redress in court with an airport operator like the Port Of Seattle. Both the carrot and the stick are the AIP Grants that now power all large airports. Making compliance with our suggested new rule contingent on receiving FAA grants is the key to giving communities a meaningful role in improving noise and pollution around major airports.

Looking forward to your positive reply.


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