NextGen Impacting Baltimore … and Why Congress Is Also Failing

The video about NextGen impacts recently posted by activists south of San Francisco is resonating far away, even near Baltimore, Maryland. Below is text from an email sent by a Maryland homeowner who has experienced the same noise and pollutant intensification due to NextGen route concentration:

I came across your website and first want to thank you for creating it. At the moment I’m feeling completely powerless in my current quest to do something about the effects of NextGen in my small town in Maryland.

The NextGen program was implemented at BWI last fall, and since then we have seen a ridiculous increase in air traffic over our neighborhood. There are days when it is virtually constant. We bought our house in this neighborhood last summer before we knew anything about NextGen. We had a few planes here and there, but they were at higher altitudes and not so bothersome. People here are used to some noise, as we are about 13 miles from BWI. But I, like you, have kids that I would like to protect. I’d like them to be able to swim in our pool without being worried that they are constantly breathing in particle pollution. The NextGen noise corridor also goes directly over several of our schools, our sports fields, and many neighborhoods from Annapolis and all the way north to the airport. I just feel like we never get a break from the planes, no matter where we go.

Here is the FAA letter I received. Interestingly enough, the letter says that there were environmental studies done for our area? But it’s my understanding that NextGen was exempted from EA. Also, their statements about noise and air pollution contradicts everything I’m reading, and more importantly, what I’m witnessing in my own neighborhood. It’s beyond frustrating.

Frankly, receiving yet another email like this further reinforces the obvious reality: FAA is a captured agency, and our Congress is essentially out to lunch. In the context of the current election debates, it is quite clear that our Congress has become derelict and is no longer compelling agency accountability.

How can we explain this? Decades ago, Congress passed legislation that taxed system users – especially airline passengers and people sending packages by air – to generate billions each year, for redistribution in ‘airport development’. We now have thousands of airports that have been developed, redeveloped, and developed again, all at public expense. Compared to other transportation infrastructure, airports are overdeveloped … and there is an awful lot of airport infrastructure that is severely underutilized (check out any major airport in Ohio, for example, such as [KCVG], with a triple parallel runway but abandoned by Delta, so today’s ops are down 75% from peak!). What’s more, the majority of today’s aviation impacts are being caused by airport development that would not happen if we did not continue to collect and use these public funds.

So, why does this problem continue? Well, it distills down to money. Our elected officials greatly enhance their chances for reelection if they bring home airport grant monies and smile in front of oversized checks. They have become severely addicted to money; this means that they just cannot say no to federal grants. Democrat and Republican members alike thus become subject to the proverb: “Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.”

FAA serves out the money, so while the voice in front of the camera may sound critical, the heart behind the voice always votes what FAA wants. In other words, the MAIN BENEFICIARIES of the current system are the agency (FAA) and the elected officials (Congress), none of whom are held accountable, yet all of whom can ‘look busy’ while issuing grant monies and waddling ineffectively while failing to fix the problems. Yup, create a problem then sustain the problem so you will always look busy!

Think about it for a minute and you can actually see: it behooves Congress to have FAA screwing up regularly, as this predictable failure ‘churns’ work, creating endless opportunities for Congress to ‘look’ busy. And it then circles back around: when an elected official browbeats FAA, FAA then looks busy, too, responding to the criticism while failing to resolve problems created by FAA itself! And ALWAYS, within their superficial responses (such as FAA’s response letter, signed by Diane Crean for Carmine Gallo), FAA will repeat the same slick phrases and empty assertions that prop up the many layers of propaganda and misinformation. What a racket!!