EPA’s Online Resources

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(map and table, showing EPA’s ten administrative regions)

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was created in 1970 “…for the purpose of protecting human health and the environment by writing and enforcing regulations based on laws passed by Congress.”

The effectiveness of EPA has been questioned by practically everyone; pro-commerce types swear EPA is too onerous, while pro-environment types insist EPA consistently falls short in protecting the environment.

Back in 1970, the year of the first ‘Earth Day’, our Congress was as constructively focused on environmental issues as they have ever been. Sadly, most Congress’s since have served commerce far ahead of people, passing laws, bending rules, and granting targeted exemptions that always further undermine EPA. This includes in the area of aviation impacts. Congress has consistently redistributed authority away from EPA and into FAA, on critical environmental matters including aviation noise and leaded aviation fuel. And, Congress has also consistently federalized authority; they’d rather strip local officials of their basic rights to run their local airports to serve the needs of their local community, and instead give that authority to faceless and unaccountable FAA bureaucrats.

A regulatory agency can be constrained by laws, but the most fundamental power is in information. Thus, even a defanged EPA can empower people, so that each individual can understand environmental impacts and effectively advocate for their family, to protect their environment. EPA can serve us – and they do, with work such as their ‘Citizen Science for Environmental Protection’ Program (selected content copied and archived here). But, and especially in the present political landscape, it is UP TO EACH OF US to do the work beyond the data: we have to take that data, formulate the message, and advocate the change.

So, for example, we can look at reports such as this one, showing diminished air quality and other impacts in the neighborhoods to the north of SeaTac Airport [KSEA]. We can also look at the December 2016 report done by the National Advisory Council for Environmental Policy & Technology, ‘Environmental Protection Belongs to the Public – A Vision for Citizen Science at EPA’.

Where Do We Go Now?

If we take away one lesson from the politics of 2016, it should be this: a Democracy is doomed to fail, where the people are not actively engaged in the decision-making process. We cannot expect to achieve the ideals we want and need as a nation (or as a small, local community), if people do not participate. We cannot be distracted; we cannot be lazy; we must guard against the manipulation of voting data and other forms of election fraud; and, we must not allow the selective disenfranchisement that is happening due to ‘the new Jim Crow’ discriminatory laws. Similarly, we cannot expect to benefit from the sound application of science where many of our elected leaders are collaborating with lobbyists seeking to discredit science; climate change denialism is a good example of this failure.

With that in mind, there is a glimmer of hope for the new administration. The GOP has championed de-federalization and expanded LOCAL authority in all matters. Thus, it is conceivable that we may be surprised; Trump, Ryan, McConnell and others may shrewdly use aviation as an example, demonstrating how to reduce bureaucracy, save money and localize control while de-federalizing the authorities that FAA has increasingly abused.

[KSMO]: A Video Collection of Speeches at a Protest in April 2007

The content and quality of presentation at this citizen protest is outstanding. The statements and the stories just scream out:

How can FAA and the Santa Monica Airport continue to do the damage being done, not just the noise but the serious health destruction, too?

This protest offers a great example for others, being impacted across the nation by an out-of-control FAA and aviation businesses. Perhaps viewing these will help you to become motivated to reclaim local control of your local airport … to serve the LOCAL COMMUNITY first, and to assure that the airport’s operations are properly balanced with the environment and local quality of life.

Click on the image below for a scrollable view; the PDF file may be downloaded. Click on the links within the PDF to view each video portion, uploaded to YouTube.

[KSMO]: No Runway Protection Zones, in Stark Contrast with Other Airports

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The green trapezoid delineates an RPZ at the north end of the Aurora Airport, near Portland, OR. This RPZ, similar in size to what is needed to accommodate charter jets at Santa Monica, measures 500ft by 1010ft by 1700ft long. As is the case nearly everywhere, all obstructions were removed from this RPZ: there are no structures within the trapezoid, and the lines of trees have all since been removed (not even stumps are allowed… they are considered too dangerous).

A Runway Protection Zone (RPZ) is a trapezoidal space, positioned at the ends of all runways, designed to create a safety buffer for when aircraft fail to stay on the runway. Santa Monica has no meaningful RPZs. In fact, despite lots of searching, I have not been able to find any other U.S. airport with hundreds of homes standing inside the RPZ. The vast majority of U.S. airports have ZERO homes standing inside the RPZs.

This graphic illustrates where the Santa Monica RPZs would be, if FAA applied its safety standards there:

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In contrast with the RPZ at KUAO, these safety areas at Santa Monica have hundreds of houses. (click on image for larger view)

Nationally, FAA has generally done a good job on RPZs; they have defined the dimensions, and they have firmly and consistently guided airport authorities to comply with these design standards that are needed to protect pilots, paying passengers and airport neighbors. FAA has thus secured safety control at essentially all airports, but NOT at Santa Monica. There, a close inspection of the RPZs shows approximately 270 homes exist in the Santa Monica RPZs, meaning that the RPZs are, frankly, nonexistent. Here are larger images; try to count the houses yourself:ksmo-20161223-500x1000x1700l-rpz-sw-of-rwys-3-21 ksmo-20161223-500x1000x1700l-rpz-ne-of-rwys-3-21Nice homes, in a beautiful area with the finest weather, yet these people endure air pollution, noise pollution, and the constant fear of an off-airport crash. This makes no sense, and it does not have to be this way.

How Does Santa Monica Compare With Other Airports?

The PDF below presents a compilation of satellite views, comparing airport RPZs for Santa Monica with thirteen other airports in five western states (California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Nevada). Each of the airports selected for comparison is noted for heavy use by air charters and private bizjets. Two especially notable conclusions from this analysis are:

  1. homes are virtually never allowed to stand within RPZs, as it is just too dangerous. So, why hasn’t FAA either bought out the homes in the Santa Monica RPZs or, far more pragmatically, simply shut down jet operations there?
  2. if FAA shut down jets at Santa Monica, the capacity to absorb them at larger and safer airports in nearby Van Nuys [KVNY] and Burbank [KBUR] is enormous. As is typical throughout the U.S., both of these airports were built to accommodate traffic levels that have since declined by half.
Click on the image below for a scrollable view; the PDF file may be downloaded.

[KSMO]: Grossly Incompatible with the Community Around It

It has been a busy Fall at the Santa Monica Airport [KSMO], where FAA is flexing its administrative-legal muscles, intervening to delay city efforts to evict two private operators. The City wants to take over fuel sales and other airport services (known as ‘FBO services’), but the private FBOs do not want to accept that their leases are expired, nor do they want to give up lucrative profits. Just like FAA does not want to adhere to the agreement they struck with the city, in 1984, which meant the city could outright close the airport in July 2015.

In a recent email, Nelson Hernandez, the Senior Advisor to the Santa Monica City Manager, offered yet another update on the city’s progress. He noted that, “…on August 23, Council directed the City Manager to establish a city-owned FBO by December 31, or as soon as practicable….” He then added, there is ample precedent for airport authorities (in this case, the City of Santa Monica) setting up their own FBO services at an airport, instead of letting an out-of-state operator reap the hefty profits. He noted three airports: “…in the last two years, Fort Wayne, Greenville, and Chattanooga, created their own City FBO for similar financial reasons….” He was referring to airports in Fort Wayne, IN [KFWA], Greenville, NC [KPGV], and Knoxville, TN [KDKX].

Out of curiosity, I did some online research and confirmed that, yes, all three of these airports have city-operated FBOs. And, all three appear to be very healthy airports. Nelson’s list of three airports included one with an FAA control tower [KFWA] and two with no control tower [KPGV] and [KDKX]). Here’s the data on these three airports, with [KSMO] added for comparison:

    • KFWA: 70 based aircraft, a 12,000ft runway and an 8,000ft runway. FAA data shows the airport had 36,100 landings and takeoffs in 2015, down 71% from its peak year (124,000 ops in 2000). [3,400 acres, surrounded by farmland]
    • KPGV: 71 based aircraft, a 7,200ft runway, and a 5,000ft runway. Form 5010 shows 48,200 annual operations in the year ending 5/30/2016 (this is a rough estimate, as there is no tower). [872 acres, surrounded by forest, farmland and limited residential development]
    • KDKX: 167 based aircraft, and a single, 3,500ft runway. Form 5010 shows 68,400 annual operations in the year ending 4/30/2013 (this is a rough estimate, as there is no tower). [200 acres, surrounded by a river, a large quarry, and farmland]
    • KSMO: 249 based aircraft, and a single 5,000ft runway. FAA data shows the airport had 90,200 annual operations in 2015, down 62% from its peak year (234,800 ops in 1991). [215 acres, surrounded by dense residential neighborhoods; and, within the airport, substantial footage is presently subleased to non-aviation business uses, generating profits for the FBOs.]

I noticed something else, too, which was a bit startling. You’ll see it starkly presented in the three image-pairs below. When you look at how Santa Monica’s runway is shoe-horned into the neighborhoods, and when you compare it to the ‘airport normality’ of these other three, far less crowded airport locations, it just jumps out at you. And, when you look at the series of images showing how many houses were removed in recent years for a runway expansion at a very slow Greenville airport, you just have to wonder how in the world people can coexist with business jets so close to their Santa Monica homes. I mean, if FAA moves people out of their homes in Greenville, what is it about Santa Monica homeowners that makes them less at risk than North Carolinians? And given that there are so many Santa Monica homes, would it not make the most sense to simply close the airport??

Clearly, each of these three airports is far more compatibly located than is the Santa Monica Airport. In fact, looking at these three, I just have to say: if I was the new FAA Administrator, I’d be quick to ask my new highly-paid subordinates:

“Why are we NOT working with the city to expedite closing this airport? After all, it is grossly incompatible with the community (look at all those houses, and so close to the runway!), it is clearly a health hazard, and we have plenty of other LA Basin airports and longer, safer runways to serve the business jets and general aviation, all of which are far below their historic high traffic levels. So, when are we going to start serving everyone, not just our buddies who employ us after we retire?”

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UPDATE, 12/6/2016: — per a request, click here for a PDF version of this entire Post.

Photography Drones: A Force for Transparency, Accountability & Democracy

Find me just one person in this nation who is not sick of this election and we will agree: this is a deceased person – who’s name is probably connected to at least one fraudulent ballot.

Downward we have dropped.

Not all is bad. Indeed, we have technologies now that can ensure transparency and accountability in our future, both so critically needed if we are to function democratically and have a just and thriving nation. Here is an example — recent footage by a citizen using a drone, flying over the construction site at the Dakota Access Pipeline, and showing that, despite newsworthy decrees by our President, the pipe lays on and further threatens  water supplies. Yes, ‘the corporation’ does as it wants, while insulating bankers and others from legal process and accountability:


These really are amazing little machines. Nobody gets hurt, because they are so small… they are literally evolved from kids’ toys. They are not intrusive; they do not burn leaded aviation fuel, nor do they create stressful noise levels as would previously happen shooting this imagery from a small plane or helicopter. And, they are incredibly maneuverable, thus can capture amazing views at low levels and in tightly confined spaces, something never possible using piloted aircraft.

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Will history show we are ‘properly attentive’ to the WRONG traditions, serving money alone?

So, there is much good to be found with small photography drones, yet where are we going with these little devices, and how are drones being steered politically? Well, FAA has muddled the rules for drone use so badly that, if their illogic is taken one small step further, we will have to send in shock troops and arrest kids who launch paper airplanes or send up kites. The courts and the quasi-courts (i.e., the administrative trial venues that pretend to offer judicial services for bureaucracies) have attacked dozens of citizens who created videos or shot gorgeous real estate pictures … all with absolutely nobody getting hurt or even frightened. In the meantime, dozens more have died in manned aircraft accidents doing the same sort of work: low level aerial photography and surveillance.

FAA could encourage drones and thus eliminate lots of intrusive tourist flying (e.g., urban air tours around Chicago or New York City, over Grand Canyon, etc.), and eliminate the use of noisy low airplanes to give traffic reports. A lot of good could happen, if FAA let drones serve what people need and want, but instead FAA appears to be serving a bipartisan trend in our government, toward aiding corporations to use new technologies, while ensuring no simple citizen can do the same.

** FILE ** Beef cattle roam the Harris Ranch farms Friday, Jan. 25, 2008 in Coalinga, Calif. Higher food inflation would further challenge shoppers who are already limiting themselves to sale items and store brands as they contend with the worst food inflation since 1990. (AP Photo/Gary Kazanjian, file)

Cattle in a feedlot near Coalinga, California, at the gates of the ‘Disassembly Line’. (AP Photo/Gary Kazanjian, file)

And, in some states, laws have been passed making it illegal to shoot photographs of feedlots and other agricultural facilities; i.e., the ‘reporter’ gets arrested for trying to document what needs to be reported.

So, in just a couple more days, the damage will have been done. We will have chosen the path to bedlam that will enable a further widening of our wealth gap, and further erosion of aviation restrictions and other environmental/health laws. Our participation in this national game, rigged as it appears to be, will further expand the egos and deplorable legacies of an elite few political animals – evident subhumans (or superhumans?) who have already demonstrated, their ethics are so thin, their values and leadership are absent, and their daily routine is so entirely self-serving, … well, we get what they let us vote for!


See also:
  • Article at EcoWatch (source for video, posted by Steve Horn at DeSmogBlog)

KSMO: City Moving Forward on Evictions of Main FBOs – Atlantic Aviation & American Flyers

“…This morning the City filed unlawful detainer actions against Atlantic Aviation and American Flyers. As you know, both companies were given 30 day notices to vacate on September 15; both failed to vacate by the required date of October 15. Please see the attached press release for more detailed information….”

– Nelson Hernandez, Senior Advisor to the City Manager

Click here for further info (archived copy of the City’s news release)

[KSMO] Update: City Issues 30-Day Notices for Both Airport FBO’s to Vacate

It has been many decades of hard work, and the end-result may soon be here: closure of this unneeded airport to eliminate health hazards, add parks, and better serve the local community.

Airport neighbors are severely impacted, mainly by charter jets and repetitious flight instruction in the airport traffic pattern. Noise of course, but also lead, carbon soot, and other hazardous pollutants. Neighbors and the City have been trying since at least the 1970s to regain control of their local airport. They have judiciously refused to accept any new grant offer for more than two decades, with the goal of timing out FAA’s right to manage and control from afar in Washington, DC, via ‘grant obligations’. That timed out last year… but then FAA arbitrarily reset the timeout date to 2023.

Following the decisive vote by city council on August 23rd, formal letters were sent to both airport FBOs, Atlantic Aviation and American Flyers. Below is a scrollable PDF copy of a news report by a pro-aviation online media outlet; predictably, it contains plenty of bias, and the reader comments illuminate that bias even further.

Click on the image below for a scrollable view; the PDF file may be downloaded.

The other notable recent news at KSMO was the filing AGAIN of yet another Part 16 complaint, this time by Atlantic Aviation. FAA’s true role, as evidenced by their history, is to cover for industry players; this includes their dog-and-pony-show complaint program called ‘Part 16’. This is strictly an administrative review process, and it is used to create an illusion of legitimacy for those complaints, which routinely are filed by legal teams representing one airport tenant or a small group of elite airport operators. The resultant FAA paperwork, and the expense in time and money FAA wastes handling these Part 16 complaints, is both phenomenal and absurd.

An ‘FBO‘ is a ‘fixed base operator’. At most small airports, there is typically one FBO and they thus hold a monopoly on the profits to be gained selling fuel, providing instruction, chartering planes and servicing aircraft. Consistent with politics today, it is not uncommon for an airport authority to be cronyistic and award the lucrative FBO rights to connected friends. For example, at Santa Monica, millions of dollars in lease revenues were effectively forfeited by the City and instead given as a massive subsidy to Atlantic, when the City authorized lucrative subleasing of hangars and non-aviation office space by Atlantic Aviation lease. The lease payments to the City pale in comparison to the sublease revenues paid to Atlantic. Here are images from Atlantic’s latest Part 16 complaint, offering those numbers:

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Item#3 in the Atlantic Aviation Part 16 Complaint: Atlantic is receiving $222K monthly by subleasing; they pay under $17K monthly to the City.

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Item#6 in the Atlantic Aviation Part 16 Complaint: Atlantic pays the City $17K monthly; the collect $222K monthly in sublease revenues. Note that fuel flowage fees are a pass-through… a common practice nationwide, where the FBO collects a few cents per gallon as a small tax, then forwards it to the airport authority.

With this transition, the City is intending to take on the expense (and reap the considerable revenues) from directly leasing properties they own, and from selling fuel at the airport. And, along with those benefits, City aims to slowly reassert the local control that never should have been taken away by FAA.


UPDATED 9/23/2016
See also:
  • 9/22/2016 – Letter to FAA, by a North Westdale resident. excerpt: “…only those wealthy enough to own and fly personal jet aircraft seem to be served by you and your office…” (1p)
  • 9/19/2016 – Motion Asking FAA to Issue Cease & Desist Order (6p)
  • 9/19/2016 – ‘City to Santa Monica FBOs: You Have 30 Days to Vacate’ .. (article by Matt Thurber, AINonline, 2p)
  • 9/15/2016 – Notice to Vacate, issued to American Flyers (2p)
  • 9/15/2016 – Notice to Vacate, issued to Atlantic Aviation (3p)
  • 9/15/2016 – ‘Santa Monica evicts private airport operators’.. (article by KPCC SoCal Public Radio; includes link to audio)

[KSMO] Update: Officials Vote to Close the Airport, So Some Pilots Want a Federal Takeover

Flying always has been an activity where you depend on yourself first, where you MUST perform responsibly as an individual decision-maker, or you can end up dead in a smoldering debris field. Intertwined with this is the fact pilots traditionally are strong advocates for individual rights and local authority. It’s a philosophy, a set of values, arguably the best part of conservatism.

So, who would have thought that pilots would be hoping Federal bureaucrats would take over airports like the one in Santa Monica? Yet, this is what some pilots are now hoping for. Here’s a PDF of a recent GA News article, with reader comments, about the latest events in Santa Monica:

Click on the image below for a scrollable view; the PDF file may be downloaded.

I grew up with aviation. My main role model as a kid was my father, a brilliant and gifted man with a Masters in Aeronautical Engineering from MIT. He grew up in the golden age of aviation – he was born not long after Lindbergh’s first flight across the Atlantic – and he shared his enthusiasm for engineering and aviation with all of us kids. For years, he worked for Boeing in Seattle; many summer weekends were spent at small airports, helping out and catching rides in my dad’s 2-seat glider. Eventually, though somewhat accidentally, I ended up spending the best years of my work life as an FAA air traffic controller. (of course, I was also a Whistleblower, and forced to retire early; story here)

That’s all background. The point to be made is this: I know from five+ decades of experience how conservative and individualistic aviators tend to be. These characteristics serve them well. And so, it is just crazy, that today we have pilots calling for the federal bureaucrats to take over the airport at Santa Monica. Just crazy.


See also:

Update: The Fight for Local Control (and eventual closure?) of the Santa Monica Airport [KSMO]

The level of organization in the neighborhoods surrounding the airport in Santa Monica continues to be impressive. This is not surprising, though, as the fight for local control over their local airport has been going on for more than THREE DECADES! The latest progress includes a push for the City Council to “…close the Santa Monica Airport to aviation use, as soon as that is legally permitted with a goal of June 30, 2018 and earlier if possible….” In support, a local Facebook group, SMOfuture, has created an 18-page factual summary of airport data that supports the closure proposal (a scrollable PDF copy is viewable at the bottom of this Post).

Take a look at the graphs in the report. There has been a lot of change in three decades. Some of the original impacts have all but disappeared. The main remaining airport impacts are the most severe, and are caused primarily by air charter jets and flight training pattern work. The flights that create the worst pollution – including added pollution at LAX due to delays – are the IFR departures. These are commonly charter jets and business jets, frequently carrying only one or two passengers. Each of these flights creates an enormous carbon impact per passenger mile, all for the ‘convenience’ of that small passenger load.

None of this is necessary, and KSMO offers no tangible benefits to the larger ‘National Airspace System’ (NAS). If an airport closure happened, flights using Santa Monica Airport would easily be absorbed at LAX, Burbank, Van Nuys and Hawthorne. The capacity at these other airports is far beyond the current usage. Indeed, as shown in the scrollable PDF below, everything has declined substantially at all Southern California airports, with the vast majority of airports seeing declines between 40% and 60%! The declining parameters include number of based aircraft, number of pilots, and number of operations per day. The only ‘growth’ at KSMO is in commercial flights, for air charter.

Click on the image below for a scrollable view; the PDF file may be downloaded.


That these health impacts and other problems persist is testimony to how entrenched FAA is, in a position that consistently protects elite airport interests, delaying any and all meaningful action. At this and other airports across then nation, locals are disgusted at this ongoing FAA failure. Adding insult to injury, the bulk of this poor performance by FAA is done using the Peoples’ money, primarily from airline passenger taxes.

See also:
  • SMO Future – a Facebook group, advocating to reduce airport pollution, noise, dangers, and costs, and seeking a better future use of the airport land.

Santa Monica Airport: One Step Closer to Local Control

KSMO.20160516.. Press Release re 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision to remand (1p)It is said that justice delayed is justice denied. And, it is common (even more so, these days?) for the status quo to delay EVERYTHING for the simple reason that it perpetuates their advantaged position. So, in a situation such as the decades-old fight for local control of their airport, the people of Santa Monica just have to keep on keepin’ on.

Nearly three years ago, the City of Santa Monica filed a lawsuit seeking to establish the right to control the local airport. FAA (and the federal Department of Justice) fought back and successfully convinced a District Court Judge to kick the can down the road. Now, more than two years further along (and still no relief from jet fumes, leaded fuel, and noise), the City has prevailed in an appeal, and the Judge’s February 2014 decision has been ruled improper.

Yesterday, the people scored a small victory when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued their decision, remanding a case back to the District Court. Here is a link to an aiREFORM page with a transcript of the March 11th arguments, and below is a copy of the 7-page ‘Memorandum’ outlining the decision:

Click on the image below for a scrollable view; the PDF file may be downloaded.


See also: