Thank you to all who are reporting intrusive jet noise! Please find below an update on the following:
- Roundtables - request for Mayor and City Manager to follow up
- FAA Important Open items
- Sky Posse Invite to Speaker and Community Discussions (RSVP to join)
As reported by the Palo Alto Weekly, Palo Alto’s bid to join the San Francisco Roundtable ended with a rejection on December 1. We want to thank all who supported the City in this request, and the citizens who diligently worked on this effort to partner beyond borders on the complex work to address aviation pollution. The SCSC Roundtable efforts met an end as well, voting at their November 11th meeting to disband, which was expected after the Cities Association of Santa Clara County voted to end its role as the fiscal agent and no replacement was found. Various options to regroup were discussed at the SCSC’s last meeting.
Now there is some urgency for the City to engage Palo Alto residents in order to see what can be done next and what resources may be employed to address air traffic noise. At a similar juncture in 2014, when the SF Roundtable last voted on Palo Alto’s application, then Mayor Nancy Shepherd asked the City Manager to put airplane noise on the Policy & Services Agenda which allowed for study, and recommendations to Council.
FAA Important Open Items
We continue to focus on FAA developments. Specifically, we need follow-up from the FAA on the recent Government Accountability Report; the Federal Mediation process to change FAA noise policy; and on the immediate environmental declarations that the FAA is making for several Bay Area procedures directly affecting Palo Alto and neighbors. Please see brief status on these here:
Government Accountability Office (GAO) Report:
The GAO report on how the FAA assesses potential noise was issued on September 28th with specific recommendations for the FAA that matter on various fronts, including what metrics the FAA will support to understand aviation noise (in addition to DNL). In Appendix III of the report, the FAA responded that they will provide a “detailed response to the recommendations within 180 days of the final report’s issuance,” so March 2022. GAO’s summary page contains the final report, and a chart describing the “OPEN” items.
Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS):
The FMCS process was first announced shortly after the FAA received over 4000 responses to the FAA’s solicitation to Inform National Aircraft Noise Policy and following the FAA's disclosure of results from their noise annoyance survey of 13 airports around the country that laid bare that the FAA is using flawed assumptions to establish noise “significance” thresholds. FMCS was originally set to happen this summer and no further details were made available. The publication Airport Noise Report provided the most recent update, last month reporting that “With no public announcement, the FAA on Sept. 10 signed an Interagency Agreement with the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS) that will guide the review of FAA’s over 40-year-old aviation noise policy. “The FAA team leads have met with the FMCS facilitation team and are providing introductory briefings on the agency's existing noise policy, research and stakeholders,” There has been no additional information about the Agreement signed, what is the intended outcome from the FMCS process, or what stakeholders will be represented in the mediation.
The FAA has already repeatedly delayed revealing the results of their survey and needed policy changes since 2018; it would be very positive if the FMCS’s involvement can help Congress advance new aviation noise policy. It’s not that complicated, THIS Congress could make sensible FAA noise policy, relying on plenty of science, an abundance of public input (both technical and community experiences), and by looking at sensible models for fair environmental aviation noise management that exist, and that the Government Accountability Office pointed to.
FAA environmental declarations for the Bay Area, using FAA’s mysterious CATEX:
This is happening now - and there is no more time to wait on the GAO, FMCS processes or roundtables which have effectively remained silent on this issue. The FAA’s webpage the "IFP" Gateway lists multiple federal actions for SFO, SJC and OAK to be published in December; these actions are impossible for citizens to track for environmental impact, and the FAA does not notify the public when they make “final orders” that rely on Categorical Exclusions (CATEX). The FAA will not even let us know when the 60 days statute of limitations begins.
We do know that preliminary analysis of the December publications for GBAS showed that the FAA will issue final orders that will increase noise and that the SFO Roundtable has been advised several times of the FAA’s plans to use CATEX. The SF Roundtable has not indicated or voiced concerns about how the agency is publishing procedures with flawed and outdated environmental impact assumptions that are in defiance of the agency’s own rules (relying on noise baselines for the footprint of one airplane, instead of calculating noise baselines that consider all air traffic), have no public notification, and with FAA outreach that contradicts what the FAA represented to the Government Accountability Office about improvements in public outreach when implementing Precision Based Navigation. Same with members of Congress and the FAA.
Sky Posse Community discussions December - February
Please JOIN! We will host a limited speaker and community discussion series (about 3-4 meet-ups through February 2022) for subscribers to our newsletter about where we are now and what the challenges and opportunities are for citizen advocacy in the near future and long term.
If we have a minimum of 30 RSVPs we will proceed with an online virtual platform; otherwise we’ll hold in person meet-ups (adequately socially distanced) for a small group. To ensure that these discussions are productive, we need YOUR help and volunteers. We need help from folks experienced on virtual platforms to help organize break out sessions and also to have a pool of moderators on hand. AND we need your input to finalize topics and sessions. We have a speaker tentatively lined up for December/early January on the implications of FAA “final orders.” We will be limiting contact on the speaker events to the folks who send an RSVP.
To join, please RSVP, to this email with your name; your city; airports that you are concerned about and to let us know A) what topics you want to make sure we cover B) preferred time frame to participate or times that don’t work (evening or daytime, weekdays or weekend), and C) to sign up to volunteer, and/or if you have someone that you would like us to include in our volunteer, guest or speaker list.
If you have any questions, or suggestions, please send us a note to email@example.com. We look forward to the discussions ahead!