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by Arline L. Bronzaft, Ph.D., Board of Directors, GrowNYC, Co-founder, The Quiet Coalition, and Honorary Chair, Quiet American Skies

The Quiet Skies Caucus, headed by Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, enthusiastically announced last week that it was able to get funding “to combat aircraft noise in [the] Appropriations Bill.” Essentially, the provisions included in the bill direct the Federal Aviation Administration to engage with communities affected by aircraft noise, give aviation noise reduction a higher priority, provide for a central repository for citizen aviation noise complaints, and requires the FAA to examine the metrics it presently uses to evaluate noise levels. In addition, funding has been earmarked for studies that could lead to aircraft noise reduction in communities impacted by such noise.

Recommendations need to be followed by reports on how these recommendations were acted on, however, and “time limits” for such reports should be stipulated. In other words, will the FAA report back to Congress within a year or 18 months about how it followed through on the bill’s requests? Will the FAA report back on the new noise metrics? Will the FAA present the list of noise complaints and how they were responded to? Will the FAA describe the designs of studies they have employed that are aimed at actual aircraft noise reduction? Will Congress be monitoring how their recommendations are being enacted?

The Quiet Skies Caucus added in their announcement that their recommendations to the bill were a victory for their constituents who have inundated them with aircraft noise complaints. As an individual who has long been involved in researching and writing about the impacts of noise, including aviation noise, on physical and mental health as well as working with communities adversely affected by aviation noise, I think “victory” is too strong a word. To me, victory comes with a reduction of aviation noise, not a recommendation to lessen the noise. Let us hope that this bill will bring about a reduction in aircraft noise.