Noise Deal Irks Dayton

(Star-Tribune headline, July 31st). Hurrah for Senator Dayton! Reporters didn't write as much as they should have known about how the language denying Airport Improvement Funds for noise mitigation got into the conference committee report. There is reliable evidence that it was passed to Senator Lott (R, Mississippi) by Northwest Airlines and used verbatim. For one thing, a Northwest Airlines employee bragged about it; for another, no secret was made about it was witnessed by a disinterested party. Perhaps there will be a follow-up story. We don't get the point of interviewing MAC Chair Vicki Grunseth or Counsel Tom Anderson about it. Chair Grunseth relied on skipping 1996 and 2001 data and only considering the projected-for-2007 map [See footnote] when she says the effect "would be ... minimal." Reduced 65 DNL areas depend on Northwest Airlines' projected retirement of noisy aircraft and limited growth in flights using MSP. NOC, by Northwest Airlines initiative (Co-Chair Nelson), recommended accepting the consultant's assumptions, voted not to review alternative scenarios, and voted not to recommend that MAC have a trigger or other method for validating airline projections. Perhaps our questioning MAC about the forecast assumptions is having more of an effect on other Commissione rs or FAA. Is Northwest buying Washington insurance against MAC considering the historical accuracy of airline projections or realizing that Northwest Airlines' forecasts are self-serving? Does a quick and "narrow" reading of the language here [by MAC's Counsel Tom Anderson] mean FAA would have the same interpretation? That Northwest wouldn't dispute this interpretation legally? That back-door, undue-influence law-making is appropriate because the language was poorly drafted? What if it wasn't so poorly drafted and Anderson's interpretation is wrong?

Possibly it is very wrong. FAA collects Passenger Facility Charges through the airlines' ticket revenue. This charge is collected from passengers ending or beginning a trip at MSP (and other airports) and not from connecting passengers. The PFC revenue is part of the funding airport managers use for airport capital improvements and considered part of the Federal Airport Improvement Program (AIP). FAA supplements this head-tax revenue with appropriations and certain other funds, and then grants are awarded for specific projects applied for by airports nationally. Depending on the language, the report may limit only the grant funding -- not allowing AIP applications/grants for noise mitigation; or it may outlaw the use of PFC funds because they are "part of the AIP." If it is unclear and passes, interpretation is by FAA.

Assuming the retirement of some noisier planes, without flying the remaining noisier planes more often, reduces the DNL contours, but the retirements assumed by 2007 do not account for noise between 1996 and 2006, the plan doesn't say what will be done if the 2007 fleet-mix and use differs a lot from the assumptions. Jim Spensley 612/824-9988

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