Communities surrounding Sea-Tac Airport and other airports in the region have come to experience an increased and disproportionate share of noise and other environmental impacts stemming from increases in air traffic. Studies have demonstrated that communities near airports and airflight pathways are exposed to higher proportions of pollution and harmful particles from aviation emissions. This can lead to increased risks of breast cancer, heart disease, asthma, and a variety of other lung and cardiovascular conditions. Aviation noise and emissions also disproportionately affect low-income communities and communities of color.

I have worked with residents of the Ninth Congressional District and community organizations such as Quiet Skies Puget Sound and the Beacon Hill Noise Team to bring their concerns to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the SeaTac airport. It is a priority of mine to ensure that not only are residents’ concerns heard, but that solutions are put forward to reduce noise and environmental impacts for all. This includes:

  • Working to ensure aviation impacted communities have a seat at the table to provide input to the FAA and collaboratively resolve concerns over noise and emissions and can participate in a meaningful airport community roundtable with airport officials, FAA representatives, and local elected officials.
  • Advocating for re-establishing the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Noise Abatement and Control (ONAC), which oversaw the nation’s efforts to mitigate noise pollution.
  • Encouraging the FAA to reevaluate its selection of noise measurement methodologies, health impact thresholds, and abatement program effectiveness and requiring them to consider the impact on human health and environment when determining airport capacity and approving new flight routes.

I have also introduced several pieces of legislation on the topic of aviation noise and emissions, including:

Aviation Noise and Emissions Mitigation Act: Creates two new pilot grant programs at the EPA for studies of air quality and noise and for mitigation projects in communities, focused on communities of color and low-income communities. The bill will help us to better understand the effects of noise and emissions and fund initiatives driven by communities to mitigate these effects on the environment, public health, and quality of life of residents living near airports and airflight pathways.

Protecting Airport Communities from Particle Emissions Act: This bill would require the FAA and EPA to jointly partner with an institution of higher education to study airborne ultrafine particles (UFPs) and their effect on human health.

Noise Mitigation Repair and Replacement Act: This bill would establish a process by which airports may apply for additional Airport Improvement Program (AIP) funding to repair or replace noise mitigation packages. Current AIP regulations make it impossible for airports to get federal AIP funding for repairing and replacing sound insulation on homes originally insulated through the AIP noise mitigation program, even if those homes had products that have failed or that were installed in a manner that causes structural damage on a home.

Aviation Impacted Communities Act: The Aviation Impacted Communities Act seeks to help cities, localities, and neighborhoods to better and more productively engage with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The legislation is geared particularly towards communities that have not been recognized as “impacted” by the FAA’s noise standard. This legislation would require that the FAA interface directly with and be responsive to residents and locally nominated leaders on issues of aviation noise and environmental impacts. Through the creation of local community boards, affected areas will be empowered to effectively work toward achieving relief from the impacts of civil and commercial aviation.

For more information on this issue, sign up to receive Congressman Smith’s email updates.

More on Airplane Noise