Santa Monica: Special Meeting on 2/24

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KSMO.20160224.. Special Meeting Announcement, re N.Hernandez at St. Andrews ChurchNotice the northeast tip of the airport, in the bottom left corner of the satellite image. This neighborhood is perhaps the most pollution-impacted area near the Santa Monica Airport and continues to experience high levels of both lead and jet-engine soot. Concerns have been raised for decades (see four items linked below), and all FAA has done is delayed, delayed, delayed.


See also:
  • 12/18/2013 – Congressman Henry Waxman letter to SCAQMD, re ultrafine particle pollution (2-pages)
  • 12/13/2013 – ‘Big disparities in air pollution detected in L.A. neighborhoods’, LA Times article by Tony Barboza (2-pages)
  • 11/30/2011 – Transcript of hearing held by Senator Ted Lieu, ‘Air Pollution Basics and Santa Monica Airport’ (60-pages)
  • 11/19/2009 – ‘Santa Monica Airport a major pollution source’, LA Times article by Dan Weikel (1-page)
  • [KSMO]

[QUOTE]: City Cites NBAA’s ‘Corporate Greed’ Behind Delayed Progress at Santa Monica Airport

QUOTE

“…the Airport belongs to the people of Santa Monica not to corporate interests. Our interest is the public interest. Our interest is to promote the well-being of tens of thousands of residents and control land purchased by the taxpayers of Santa Monica. What NBAA wants is to use our property, public property, for a select group of people that can afford private jets solely for their convenience. Although their arguments are wrapped in beautiful legal prose, when you peel away the curtain what you find is corporate interest who ordinarily believe in property rights except when it is an inconvenience for them….”

– Nelson Hernandez, senior advisor to the City Manager

Mr. Hernandez makes a very good point: the position being advocated by conservative aviation interests, who are consistently opposed to distant federal control and overreach, is a position that sustains and entrenches FAA’s bureaucratic interference so as to obstruct local authority. How ironic (and hypocritical) is that?

Click here to read the original article at Santa Monica Daily Press.

Click here to see a new aiREFORM.com webpage with recent KSMO documents, including articles, legal filings, and some background material.

AIRR Act is Shuster Serving the Airline Corporatocracy

This past week, in a very-coordinated effort including lobbyists, airlines, past FAA officials and the always-loyal aviation media outlets, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster released his proposed legislation, the AIRR Act.  The most significant element of the Aviation Innovation, Reform & Reauthorization Act is that it proposes to remove ATC from the FAA and place it into a corporate body with a governing panel consisting primarily of industry players.

20160202scp.. FAA Over-Delivering on Destroying Communities (A.Lilling tweet)

…a recent tweet about FAA failure…

Does FAA need reform? Absolutely. So, too, Congress needs reform. And both FAA and Congress need reform for the same reason: they are both failing to serve.

Our Founding Fathers designed a system that was to protect the delicate balance between government powers and the rights of individual citizens. This system means that, where a federal agency (such as FAA) is imposing burdens on communities (such as Charlotte, Boston, Flushing, Phoenix and many other ‘NextGen-victims’), the Congress will act to remedy the problem. But, due in no small part to both extreme gerrymandering and plutocratic allegiance, we have not had a functioning Congress for well over a decade. Instead, for the most part, we have had a fraternity of rich lawyers all hyper-focused on manipulating district boundaries and collecting contributions to fund their reelections.

When you think about the long list of FAA failures in recent years, and the consistent inability of most elected officials to take decisive actions, it starts to appear as if our elected leaders actually wanted to perpetuate the failures, to create a population so desperate for impact relief, they would be easily manipulated to call their representatives and tell them to vote in favor. Thus, stacking up these problems might actually up the odds of passing the eventual proposal.

So many failures went unresolved, and virtually everywhere:

  •  the lack of control by local authorities to manage problems at their local airport.
  • the horrific impacts related to NextGen implementations, creating new noise-ghettos.
  • the many lies and misrepresentations – the outright fraud packaged under the name ‘NextGen’.
  • the continued spewing of toxic lead by small planes DECADES beyond health-mandated deadlines

We have seen a few rare exceptions (they are almost always freshman representatives who perhaps have not yet lost their idealism and loyalty to true service?), but, for the most part, Congress continues to do nothing. Then, suddenly, we as citizens watch as Mr. Shuster springs to life and offers the AIRR Act. Of course, at the same time, via a media blitz, we are also being told by Mr. Shuster, by the airlines, by lobbyist ‘Airlines for America’, and by a gaggle of former FAA officials (including David Grizzle and Russ Chew) that this is a great idea. Even the controller’s union, NATCA, announced support … though all the other unions came out in strong opposition, which raises the question: what bone has been promised to NATCA for the inexplicable support?

There are many things WRONG about the AIRR Act. The main objective is clearly to insulate ATC from both Congressional oversight and public accountability/transparency, neither of which is a worthy or acceptable goal. But, for now, consider just the simple truth, that failure should never be rewarded. Passing this legislation would reward players in both the Congress and at FAA. Congress should not be in the business of giving away authority in exchange for contributions from profitable airline during a campaign year. FAA should not be functioning as a captured regulator, serving only the industry while creating more and worsening problems for the People. Both are failing, so why would any intelligent person want to reward that failure?

How about this instead: if FAA et al really want to outsource ATC, grant their proposal only after both FAA and Congress have cleaned up their acts and are performing their duties. We all deserve and demand an ACCOUNTABLE Federal Aviation Administration.

Hillsboro, Toxic Lead Pollution, and the Next HARE Meeting

During much of the first month of this new year, we have heard news about lead poisoning in the Flint, Michigan water supply. Most recently, we all learned how government workers were provided bottled water to not have to rely on the water soon to be announced as toxic. All of this to save a few bucks, with evident indifference for the health and welfare of the larger community: the residents of Flint.

At the Hillsboro Airport [KHIO] in Oregon, lead has been an ongoing issue. In fact, the Hillsboro Airport officially emits 1,400 pounds of lead into the air, at an airport with numerous nearby residential neighborhoods and even schools. The vast majority of these lead emissions are created by the one airport business that imports students from across the world, and makes a large profit teaching them to fly at KHIO, with tens of thousands of flights circling low over Hillsboro neighborhoods. And, just like happened in Flint, the Port of Portland and the FAA are resisting and delaying changes needed to reduce this dangerous pollutant, all with evident indifference for the health and welfare of the larger community: the residents of Hillsboro.

The February 3rd HARE Meeting

When they have an impact problem such as aviation noise or lead pollution, a common strategy for airport authorities is to create a citizen group.

20130821.. 'Great Quote by Upton SInclair' (screencap of aiREFORM Post)

(click on image to learn more about Upton Sinclair and FAA’s inability to ‘understand’ a controller error at Camarillo)

Such groups typically consist almost entirely of pro-business interests, as well as many who are actual pilots or otherwise economically connected to the airport. And, as noted 80-years ago by Upton Sinclair, such groups have an astonishing inability to fix problems, surpassed by an astonishing ability to serve the status quo.

The airport authority at Hillsboro is the Port of Portland. Years ago they created the ‘Hillsboro Airport Issues Roundtable’, HAIR. For whatever reason (maybe the fact that their group was dominated by old white guys, who tend to have evident follicle-impairment issues?), the name was ‘upgraded’ to HARE, standing for ‘Hillsboro Airport Roundtable Exchange’. At any rate, the group of 22 people meets quarterly, to create subcommittees, to field subcommittee update reports, to hear Public Comments, and generally to project at least an appearance of ‘citizen involvement’ in the management of the activities and impacts of their local airport. Oh, and for the record, the evidence resoundingly suggests: whenever FAA and airport authorities convene a citizen committee, the group is routinely and profoundly biased against the citizenry and for the industry.

Here is a link to the Port’s HARE webpage (including a list of the members), and below is a scrollable PDF copy of the agenda for the coming meeting.

This pop-out view is scrollable, and the PDF copy may be downloaded.

Success in Santa Monica: Prop 65 Signs Posted for Toxic Airport Lead

The situation has persisted for decades: FAA and airport management have stalled and obstructed citizen efforts to remedy the many adverse impacts caused by users of the airport in Santa Monica [KSMO]. Not just the noise impacts, but also health concerns, including toxic lead (still added to AvGas!) and soot and other hazardous air pollutants.KSMO.20160122.. Martin Rubin pointing at Prop 65 sign at observation area

And so it is a great accomplishment to see that somebody within the city’s government has finally posted Prop 65 warnings at the public observation deck.

Thank You! And, kudos to CRAAP and others who have persisted in pressing the airport management for transparent disclosure of these SMO airport health risks. [click here for a PDF copy of the CRAAP news article]

KSMO.20160122.. Prop 65 sign at observation area

We all hope FAA will halt their obstructionism and allow city officials to resume the appropriate level of ‘local control’ needed to make SMO an airport that adds to quality of life in the community. Maybe the entire airport will be shut down, or maybe the runway will be shortened and jets disallowed. But, whatever happens, we need to get away from the current imbalance that benefits so few at the expense of so many.

All They Want is ‘LOCAL CONTROL’

The Mayor of Santa Monica lays it out very clearly, in an article published by a local paper, The Argonaut. The 1/6/2016 article presents a set of questions to community leaders, asking them to predict what citizens might expect to see during the new year on important Santa Monica issues. Here is the response by Mayor Vazquez:

What will happen next in the city’s battle
with the FAA over Santa Monica Airport?

– by Tony Vazquez

“The controversy over the Santa Monica Airport will continue into the New Year and most likely for years to come. The facts are Santa Monicans have voted to take control over our airport land. Yet the FAA continues to favor aviation interests to the detriment of the health and safety of the families that live near the airport.

After almost two years, including four extensions of time to render a decision, on Dec. 4 the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) finally released its director’s determination that may affect the timing of Santa Monica regaining local control over our airport. The issue before the FAA was whether the city’s assurances stemming from a 1994 FAA Airport Improvement Program (AIP) grant expired in 2014 or whether the assurances expire in 2023. According to the determination, the assurances expire in 2023. The implication is that the city must continue to adhere to federal grant assurances and operate the airport accordingly until 2023. The city disagrees with the determination.

We believe the determination is factually incorrect and inconsistent with best grant management practices. Here’s why. Airports that receive FAA grants are obligated to meet and maintain certain assurances. We understand that and have fully complied. However, federal law states that after 20 years from the date of acceptance of the grant offer, the city — just like any other FAA grantee — is no longer subject to the assurances. Santa Monica accepted the grant in 1994; therefore the determination is wrong on the facts and is not sustainable.

The determination is not the final word; it is only the first. The city is entitled to two levels of appeals within FAA. The next level would be with an FAA hearing officer. Should the hearing officer agree with the director, the city may appeal to the FAA associate director of airports. And, of course, if the FAA associate director sides with previous conclusions, the city may pursue our rights in federal court.

The City Council has yet to decide as a body whether to appeal the determination. That decision will come in 2016. As mayor, I can say the city is fully committed to realizing the will of the voters, who in 2014 voted overwhelming in favor of Measure LC (Local Control).

We hope FAA senior management will rectify the agency’s initial error. Regardless, the city will keep fighting for local control over the airport land. The voters have spoken, and we will never give up!”

— Tony Vazquez is mayor of Santa Monica.

Mayor Vazquez accurately depicts the Delay-Game FAA plays, to benefit a handful of aviation interests against the health and quality-of-life interest of thousands of local residents. This is an egregious abuse of authority by FAA. The laws that Congress creates need to protect every community, to ensure they retain substantial ‘Local Control’ of their local community airport. Quite reasonably, local control should include setting the hours and intensity of use of their local airport, and protecting against pattern-noise operations such as skydiving operations or razor-thin NextGen routes. Airports need to serve communities first.

The substantial community problems around the Santa Monica Airport are caused mostly by bizjets and flight training. Frankly, these problems could easily be solved, improving both local environmental quality and safety, if only FAA would cooperate.  The solutions needed at KSMO need to go far beyond Santa Monica, as there are dozens of other U.S. communities denied local control by an FAA that behaves like an irresponsible out-of-state landlord. Notably, the jet-related impacts at Santa Monica have gone on for more than fifty years (check out this 1967 news article, showing a time when local control was asserted). Today’s FAA, using public funds to demand full-term compliance with 20-year grant assurance obligations, is sharply out of step with the need to serve the PUBLIC. Today’s FAA is using these grant obligations solely to deny local control.

Perhaps, new legislation is needed, to force FAA to restore meaningful local control. As part of that legislation, set Santa Monica free: let this community resume local control of it’s very impactful airport. Every community should have a contractual right to end obligations after 10-years, and even sooner if they refund a pro-rated portion of the grant amount.

Is Santa Monica Failing to Warn People about Lead Impacts?

The fight continues in Santa Monica, with city officials pressing FAA to let them take back local control of their airport. Mayor McKeown and the City Councilmembers have held many good sessions, allowing citizens to voice their concerns. The availability of documents and videos online has also been impressive, almost a model for other communities to follow. But, the performance of others within the city government has fallen short in some areas. One of these failures has to do with alerting the general public about the health hazards of lead pollution caused by the combustion of leaded aviation fuel.

KSMO.20151116cpy.. Promo for use of Airport Observation Decks

(Screen-capture of a city webpage promoting use of two observation decks. Although a settlement agreement in late 2014 included posting signs on the airport “…at conspicuous locations likely to be seen by the general public…,” NO SIGNS ARE POSTED at this observation deck.)

Lead is a serious neurotoxin, particularly damaging to growing children. The federal government began phasing lead out of paint and automobile fuels in the early 1970s, and by the end of 1995 lead was no longer sold in automobile gas. The same was supposed to happen in aviation. Instead, twenty years later, in 2015 small planes in the U.S. continue to run primarily on 100LL AvGas, the low-lead fuel FAA has failed to clean up.

Not insignificantly, there are even thousands of new small aircraft that have all been manufactured after automotive fuel lead disappeared in 1995. Instead of removing lead from fuel, in the early 1990s, FAA worked hard to foster development of an entire new industry sector: the ‘homebuilt’ or ‘kit’ airplane, such as the Van’s RV models. Most of the new kit planes run on new engines burning the same dangerous fuel: 100LL AvGas. Consequently, aviation today has become the largest source of lead air pollution in the United States.

In 2011, CEH.org took legal action against the leaded AvGas problem at California airports. After three years of legal wrangling, a settlement was struck: a court-enforced Consent Decree in which FBO’s (fixed base operators) selling AvGas at 24 California airports agreed to pay a fine, and the airports also agreed to perform public notifications. They were required to mail printed notices to all residences within one kilometer of the airport, and also required to post 24″ by 24″ signs warning about the lead hazard. The language of both the mailing and the warning signs conforms with California’s Prop 65.

(the text for lead hazard warning signs, as required by the consent decree in the CEH.org legal action.)

(the text for lead hazard warning signs, as required by the Consent Decree in the CEH.org legal action.)

The signage requirements were clearly laid out within the Consent Decree:

KSMO.20151116cpy.. Prop65 Lead warning sign, size & placement

(the sign placement requirements within the Consent Decree, with an emphasis on ensuring they would be seen by the general public.)

Logically, a lead hazard sign would have been placed at the observation deck, as in the picture above, where a dad has taken his two young children. This is a location close to the aircraft operational area, and a location where visitors can learn and make informed decisions.

(the best SDanta Monica could do was to place the sign above an ash tray, at an FBO's designated smoking area.)

(the best location Santa Monica officials would allow was to place the sign above an ash tray, at an FBO’s designated smoking area.)

So, what happened at Santa Monica? It appears that airport officials would not fully cooperate with the parties (CEH.org and the settling fuel dispensers). This meant that, in accordance with paragraph 2.1.1(c) of the Consent Decree, the FBOs were to place the signs on their own leased properties, at the location “…most likely to be seen by the general public.” In this picture, at one of the Santa Monica FBOs, the Prop 65 lead warning is on a fence, deep within the secure portion of the airport — above the ash tray, in the smoking area for the FBO!

Really? Yes. And so, with the city’s website, the city encourages parents to bring their children to the airport, and some city officials (such as the airport director) are careful to protect them from the knowledge of lead exposure. They ensure that the lead impact warning sign is across the field, where visitors will never see it: just above the cigarette butts nobody wants to be near, in an FBO smoking area.

Considering the great fight city officials are waging, trying to deal with an intransigent FAA, trying to regain local control of the airport and serve the local citizens, it really seems like a no-brainer. Mayor McKeown and the other Councilmembers need to issue an order to the airport officials: place lead warning signs at the most impactful location, the observation decks.


See also… (blue dates link to online content)

10/25/2015
Why No CA Prop 65 warning at SMO Observation Deck?
WEBPAGE – A detailed assessment by CRAAP, with many links to background materials about lead impacts

Updated Remarks, by Petition Signers Nationwide

(click on image to read the petition at Change.org)

(click on image to read the petition at Change.org)

This is an extraordinary collection of comments, well worth studying. Here are some conclusions that are readily apparent:

  • The noise impacts of aviation are EVERYWHERE, and exacerbated by a federal agency (FAA) that is totally indifferent to the impacts … too busy serving their industry with fewer restrictions and regulations. A classic example of fully formed Regulatory Capture.
  • The melting pot that is our nation is beautifully reflected in the comments, especially in the impact areas around Flushing, Queens, and Roslyn, New York. The many comments suggest that even people who have recently come to live in our nation are shocked at what they see is happening to local quality of life.
  • Many people may have become conditioned to not speak up. For example, the largest skydiving noise impact in the nation right now is being caused by Frank Casares’ Mile Hi Skydiving, operating out of the airport in Longmont, Colorado. For a few years now, impacted people have seen the hostile, uncivil, and in some cases frighteningly aggressive comments by skydiving advocates in various online forums. They have become conditioned to stay quiet. Yet, with this petition, dozens have chosen to speak up by adding their valuable comments.
  • Probably the community most intensively impacted by NextGen is Phoenix, due especially to FAA’s giving the airlines early turns in west flows (impacting the Grand Ave and Laveen areas). Thousands of residents are impacted, but their property values are plummeting, and it appears that many have become afraid to attach a name and a concern that might undermine their negotiating position while selling the homes they once loved. This is terrible: that elected officials and federal authorities (like you, Michael Huerta and Glen Martin!) do nothing to mitigate an undisputed impact, letting it persist long enough to force people to move on for their health … and that people in our nation are afraid to speak up! We all owe a lot to those who have posted their comments.

Click on page two to view the roughly 280 comments, sorted by location, and be sure to look at your own community. Also, if you or someone you know is concerned about unmitigated aviation noise, please sign the petition and add your comments! Even better, tell your elected representatives you signed and they need to ‘get to work’. We all need to speak up if this problem is to be remedied.

‘Dear President Obama’ – An Outstanding Anti-Fracking Website

This Post is not directly about aviation, but it is highly relevant and presented for four reasons:

  1. just like aviation, the hydro-fracking industry is highly impactful against the environment and local quality of life;
  2. the adverse impacts of both aviation and hydro-fracking tend to be focused on specific communities, whose members increasingly find a rigged system, wherein the industry is bolstered by captured regulatory agencies while the People have no real voice;
  3. aviation is horribly dependent on the use of fossil fuels (there are simply no clear alternative energies that can feed aviation’s energy appetite), thus is a key industry driving hydro-fracking and other ‘dirty energy extraction processes; and,
  4. the ‘Dear President Obama’ website presents an outstanding format, using video, images, and written content, to help illuminate the national scope of these many local problem areas.

Here are two sample videos…

Pennsylvania:

Colorado:
If you are concerned about aviation impacts, by NextGen or by your local unregulated activities (e.g., skydiving, air tours, banner tows, etc.), please spend a few minutes looking at the ‘Dear President Obama’ website and watching some of the videos. Think about your own local story, and the letter you want to send if/when we can find an official who cares to fix aviation problems. In the coming years, we will need to work together; creating a similar website focused on aviation impacts is a project some of us should take on, and it would be a great step forward.

Interesting Reader Comments Submitted to AOPA’s Blog Post about Santa Monica Airport

One week ago, aviation lobby group AOPA posted an article about the fight for local control of the airport in Santa Monica, CA [KSMO]. Some interesting reader comments came in before the comment period was closed (an apparent 7-day standard comment period). Looking closely at these 31 comments, a few points are clear:

  1. ‘pro-airport’ commenters tend to rely on arguments that (a) the airport was there first (so neighbors should just ‘suck it up’), (b) elected officials are greedy and corrupt, (c) vocal airport neighbors are also just greedily trying to make money by closing the airport, (d) neighbors suffer from a ‘class-envy’ against wealthy aircraft operators, and (e) airports are closing all over the country. None of these arguments are supported by any rational evidence.
  2. ‘pro-local control’ commenters focus on health impacts connected to air pollution (including lead) and noise pollution, as well as safety issues such as the lack of adequate runway protection zones (needed to safely contain accidental runway excursions, protecting both pilots and neighbors). They appear to trust that their elected officials are NOT corrupt and are truly aimed at serving the public, including eliminating the pollution/health issues, and developing more needed park space.
  3. shockingly, at least two pro-airport commenters advocate eminent domain property seizures to protect their right to use the airport property. Ironically, one of the largest appeals of aviation is a sense of freedom and self-sufficiency while flying, and yet here we have aviators seemingly oblivious to the liberties of airport neighbors.
  4. It would be appropriate (and advisable?) for Santa Monica City Council members to quickly address the rumors of ‘conflict of interest’. Specifically, the Council should address this charge and have each member declare their status, related to the possibility that they have a financial interest that would benefit from the closing or scaling-down of the airport. This entire matter would take just 5-10 minutes at the next Council meeting, and would put all Council members on the record.
  5. Obviously, if there are any Council members with a conflict of interest, they need to both disclose and fully recuse from future decisions.

To read the archived comments, please see page two of this Post.