An Update On The "World's Longest Regulatory Negotiation"
In Washington, they call
it the "world's longest regulatory negotiation" -- five years of
talks between the FAA and the EPA on regulating jet aircraft
emissions. And can you guess how much progress has been made?
That's right, little if any.
Now, after state and local air quality officials walked out of
the marathon talks over the summer, it appears regulating jet
aircraft emissions will fall to the states -- exactly where
industry officials didn't want it to go.
When the talks broke down, according to the Washington Post, the
agreement on the table would have committed the airline industry to
reducing NOx emissions from some 40,000 types of equipment made
before 1999, ranging from fuel tugs and tugs to baggage carts and
such. Newer models are already subject to stiffer regulations. The
goal: reduce NOx emissions by 50-percent over the next five years.
There wasn't even any mention about jet aircraft exhaust.
That won't happen now and the two groups of non-federal
anti-pollution officials who walked out on the talks are furious.
In a letter dated November 22nd, quoted by the Post, the State and
Territorial Air Pollution Program Administrators and the
Association of Local Air Pollution Control Officials told both the
EPA and the FAA, "The final proposal offered this summer was
inadequate in terms of scope and stringency and placed unacceptable
constraints on state and local air agencies' abilities to protect
the public from the adverse health impacts associated with
aviation-related pollution." The local and state regulators said
they were disappointed that "no progress was made concerning the
primary objective of reducing aircraft emissions."
At the bottom of the
controversy is a dispute over whether high-altitude emissions
contribute to the formation of ozone gas. The two state/local
organizations say yes, as do most European governments. But the ATA
says emissions from aircraft account for just 0.4 percent of the
NOx emissions in the US.
Airline executives, already pressed to the wall on finances,
told the Post they were surprised to see the state and local
representatives walk out of the talks.
But they also say, given the state of the commercial aviation
economy, they're hard pressed to commit any funding to what they
see as an environmental program aimed at reducing emissions the
airlines don't think are that serious anyway.
"The airlines are sucking air. We don't have two dimes to rub
together," Nancy Young, ATA's managing director of environmental
programs, told the Post. "But our CEOs stood behind a proposal that
would cost $1 billion. And it was controversial."
While executives whose airlines would have contributed to that
fund might breathe a sigh of relief over the cancelled talks, there
comes a warning from the Airports Council International that the
battle is far from over. And, said ACI Vice Senior President
Richard Marchi, state and local authorities will be able to exact
their pound of flesh by holding up airport construction or
Of course, he told the Post, they could always sue individual
airports and individual carriers. That, he indicated, would be one
of aviation's worst nightmares.