Saturday, April 22, 2017

Jimmy DeButts: Anne Arundel, Maryland, residents deserve NextGen relief

Residents of Phoenix sued the federal government when low-flying planes began rattling windows and shaking walls in 2014.

The action came nine months after the Federal Aviation Administration implemented a new "modernized" air traffic management system. The same program arrived at BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport in spring 2015.

NextGen had the same intrusive and disruptive impact on residents of Anne Arundel and Howard counties.

The difference? Our state and county are still in the "talking" phase.

The FAA says NextGen will result in $160 billion in savings by 2030. It promises reduced carbon emissions, decreased fuel consumption and fewer flight delays.

It's already delivered anxiety, sleepless nights and fears of falling home values and quality of life for many Anne Arundel residents.

Local leaders are relying on cordial correspondence with the feds instead of taking an aggressive stance as noise complaints centered around BWI spiked to 1,849 in 2015 from 835 in 2014. A request for 2016 data from the state's Office of Noise, Real Estate and Land Use Compatibility was not fulfilled.

At this point, what's left to say? How many different ways can residents say, "My walls shake. I can't sleep at night. I can't talk with my neighbors outside because more planes are flying lower (and louder) than before NextGen?"

Talk. That's all we've received.

Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh sent a letter to FAA chief Michael Huerta on April 5, 2017 seeking a town hall be held in the county with impacted communities. This would allow residents to "voice their concerns regarding departure procedures that were never addressed sufficiently" by the FAA prior to implementation.

Schuh wants FAA leaders to hear concerns. This comes nearly two years after Phoenix sued the FAA to halt NextGen. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit held a hearing in the Phoenix's case on March 17.

Maryland is playing catchup.

The county and state need a plan. Saying "pretty please" hasn't expedited the process.

Maryland is asking the federal government to do the right — and responsible — thing. Two years of polite requests have changed nothing.

The county and state must take the fight to the feds. When the talk ends, and if the FAA rejects our pleas for change, what is the next step for Marylanders?

Gov. Larry Hogan and Schuh should join the state's Democratic congressional delegation — who also were tardy to the party — Anthony Brown, Elijah Cummings, Dutch Ruppersberger, John Sabanes, John Delaney and Jamie Raskin, Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen — in demanding the FAA revert to its previous flight path program.

The Democratic delegation sent a letter to the FAA on Wednesday urging it to act on the DC Metroplex BWI Community Roundtable's NextGen solution. The roundtable recommends immediately reverting to the pre-NextGen flight paths and procedures.

The county should follow Howard County's lead and authorize its attorney to sue the FAA if changes aren't immediately made. State leaders should join forces in federal court with Howard County, Phoenix, three Southern California communities and other cities and states impacted by this ill-conceived cost-saving plan.

The roundtable took four months to say what should have taken a day. Federal bureaucrats will predictably drag their feet so it's conceivable an answer won't come until the end of the year.

More uncertainty of continued air terror for thousands of county residents is immoral. They deserve a definitive answer: either their property values sink or they'll receive relief.

Imagine trying to sell a house when prospective buyer's questions are drowned out by screeching 737s that rumble by every few minutes. Increased noise associated with NextGen has robbed many residents of their outdoor joys. Some have abandoned gardening and outdoor dining because of the incessant high-decibel bombardment coming from passenger and commercial aircraft.

NextGen is an unmitigated disaster created by the Obama administration for everyone who is not a bean counter. A speedy resolution is not a partisan issue. Del. Nic Kipke, R-Pasadena, has constituents who say they can see passengers in low-flying aircraft through the plane's windows.

Residents from Hanover to Arnold — represented by Democrats and Republicans — are subject to unnecessary noise pollution. There's an easy solution:

A coalition of Maryland's elected leaders needs to say loud and unequivocally, "END NextGen NOW."

Original article can be found here:

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