DC attorney general urges FAA to change airport-noise policy

D.C.’s attorney general has asked the Federal Aviation Administration to make changes to its policy on aircraft noise near airports, saying the agency uses inadequate and outdated information to set its rules.

Attorney General Karl Racine also said the FAA didn’t apply its noise policy consistently and fairly when rerouting flights to and from Reagan National Airport in 2015, leading to an increase in noise near the airport.

The FAA in January published a Neighborhood Environmental Survey regarding airport noise, and asked for comment letters “on what, if any, additional investigation, analysis, or research should be undertaken to inform FAA noise policy.” Racine’s office wrote to the FAA in response.

For one thing, Racine said, the data on the effects of airplane noise on health that the FAA uses to make its policy is more than 40 years old — a fact the FAA refers to in its own study.

The FAA also only bases policy on noise levels and “annoyance,” Racine’s office said in a statement. “[T]here have been numerous studies and research performed in the past several decades regarding the effect of environmental and aircraft noise” on children’s health in particular, Racine’s office said in the letter.

When between 2013 and 2015 the FAA changed flight paths from DCA to bring them closer to D.C. and farther from Arlington, Virginia, Racine said, the agency failed to follow its own rules on making an environmental assessment on how much more noise that would bring to Georgetown and the areas around national parks on the Potomac.

“Current studies and knowledge … as well as technological advances capable of producing quieter and more efficient aircraft and navigating more precise routes must be considered to update the FAA’s Noise Policy in order to reduce noise impacts on areas and residents exposed to an ever-increasing expansion of air traffic,” Racine said in the letter to the FAA.

Rick Massimo

Rick Massimo came to WTOP, and to Washington, in 2013 after having lived in Providence, R.I., since he was a child. He's the author of "A Walking Tour of the Georgetown Set" and "I Got a Song: A History of the Newport Folk Festival."

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