Bayside leaders warn of FAA’s exclusion plans

Bayside leaders warn of FAA’s exclusion plans
Photo by Phil Corso
By Phil Corso

Anyone opposed to the idea of the Federal Aviation Administration exempting itself from studying how its flight patterns might affect the environment has less than two weeks to speak up.

Last month, the agency released a draft of Order 1050.1F — Policies and Procedures for Considering Environmental Impacts, which proposes that all authority over determining when or if an environmental study must be completed should rest in the hands of FAA administrators. The order also proposed that such decisions can be made without soliciting any public comment.

The FAA did not return requests for comment in time for publication.

Elected officials from every level of government came together Tuesday afternoon in Bayside to oppose the FAA’s proposal, accusing the agency of arrogance and trying to pass key decisions under the radar.

“It is outrageous that the FAA is seeking greater leeway to exempt itself from vital environmental studies, which determine whether or not new airplane routes — and the accompanying noise — adversely impact affected communities,” said U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing), one of the many elected leaders fighting the federal agency. “The agency’s plan to further sidestep this critical process is a slap in the face to all who live and work underneath new flight patterns, and it is imperative that the FAA abandon its intention to proceed with it.”

Meng joined U.S. Rep. Steve Israel (D-Melville) in penning a letter to FAA Administrator Michael Huerta, urging him to step away from the proposal, adding that consequences could include more of a noise burden over constituents’ homes.

The army of lawmakers and northeast Queens community leaders has been battling the federal agency for more than a year after it revised its flight procedures out of LaGuardia Airport, ultimately resulting in a drastic increase of airplane noise over residential areas like Bayside and Little Neck. The shift was made in accordance with the FAA’s NextGen flight procedures and was made possible by the agency issuing itself a categorical exclusion, voiding any responsibility for an environmental impact study.

Now, elected officials said the FAA was trying to include a similar categorical exclusion but on a much broader level, as outlined by the proposal.

“Navigation performance and area navigation procedures developed, certified, published or implemented under this section shall be presumed to be covered by a categorical exclusion under Chapter 3 of FAA Order 1050.1E unless the administrator determines that extraordinary circumstances exist with respect to the procedure,” the draft order said.

The FAA did, however, establish a public comment period for the controversial draft order, which will close Sept. 30. Until then, residents can submit comments to the agency through regulations.gov docket number FAA-2013-0685.

Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4573.