Press Releases

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Representative Adam Smith (D-Wash.) issued the following statement after joining Congressional colleagues in pushing the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to meaningfully reevaluate alternative metrics to the current 65 Day Night Level (DNL) standard.

“For years, communities across the nation have continued to experience an increased and disproportionate share of noise and other environmental impacts stemming from commercial aviation, and concerns of residents in these areas are not being adequately addressed. The 2018 FAA Reauthorization included several requests for reports on metrics for evaluating noise impacts on airport communities. Unfortunately, the report released by the FAA this spring on alternative metrics to the 65 DNL standard was woefully inadequate.

“I was pleased to join my colleagues in requesting a revised report on alternative metrics from the FAA so that Congress can truly understand what alternative measurements may be more useful in developing policies to mitigate noise and to designate impacted communities. As the letter points out, the FAA’s recent report reveals that the agency is interested only in treating supplemental noise metrics as an asterisk to noise measurement rather than a comprehensive toolbox from which to address noise impacts.

“The FAA’s report failed to seriously analyze and consider widely used alternative metrics to the current 65 DNL standard to measure noise impact, to use in flight procedure design, or to inform decisions to alleviate existing noise despite being directed by law. It is unacceptable that the agency dismissed and ignored alternative metrics to their current average, and they must get back to the drawing board to include the potential use of such metrics in the U.S.”

You can read the full letter here or below:

  

Steve Dickson, Administrator
U.S. Department of Transportation
Federal Aviation Administration
Office of the Administrator
800 Independence Avenue, S.W.
Washington, DC 20591

Dear Administrator Dickson:

As Members of the U.S. House of Representatives, we write to express deep concern regarding the Federal Aviation Administration’s Report to Congress dated April 14, 2020, on its findings pursuant to Sections 188 and 173 of the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 (P.L. 115-254). After conducting a detailed review of the FAA’s report, we find it wholly inadequate, failing to meet the mandate in the law.

As you know, Section 188 of the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 mandated the FAA to “evaluate alternative metrics to the current average day-night level standard, such as the use of actual noise sampling and other methods, to address community airplane noise concerns.” Further, the law directed the FAA to provide Congress with a detailed report on its findings. On April 14, 2020, the FAA released the report, and in addition to reporting on Section 188, the FAA also used this report to address Section 173, which states: “Not later than 1 year after the date of enactment of this Act, the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration shall complete the ongoing evaluation of alternative metrics to the current Day Night Level (DNL) 65 standard.” It is our assessment that this report entirely fails to seriously analyze and consider alternative metrics to the DNL 65 standard.

First and foremost, the report fails to evaluate well-respected and widely used alternatives, including: the Cumulative Noise Equivalency Level (“CNEL”) metric, which California uses to evaluate aircraft and other noise exposures1; the ISO 1996-1:2016 (“Acoustics – Description measurement and assessment of environmental noise”), an international standard specifically adopted to identify community noise concerns in general, but airplane noise in particular2; and the European alternative to the DNL metric, known as the DENL, or the day-evening-night level metric. The latter noise metric disaggregates evening and night noise levels to address the fact that communities experience noise events differently during the day, the evening and the nighttime sleeping hours. A credible evaluation of alternative noise metrics and the 65 DNL standard would have addressed the correlation between each metric and the known noise impact on communities in a NextGen environment, similar to a comparison done in an FAA-funded 2011 report on replacement metric research.3 However, in lieu of providing a thorough evaluation, the report merely describes DNL and a number of alternative metrics, while offering an incomplete and at times inaccurate comparison of DNL to those alternatives.

Furthermore, there are glaring absences in the FAA’s assessment that render it incomplete. For example, the report fails to analyze complaint data despite the fact that the FAA itself utilized complaint data as a lawful alternative metric in its 2013 federal court case against Helicopter Association International, Inc.4 Failing to mention any role for complaint data would appear in contrast to FAA’s Noise Complaint Initiative begun in the last 12 months, allowing direct reporting of noise events to FAA. The report also lacks the scientific nuance the agency demonstrated in 2019, when the FAA funded a research project at MIT to evaluate metrics and assess the impact of frequent overflights; that study concluded that the Number-Above (NA) metric provided an effective correlation to aircraft noise impacts on the public,5 but is scarcely mentioned in this report. Even commonly used metrics are overlooked, such as the metrics for construction noise and the concept of sones. Construction noise metrics are regularly employed across the United States and capture greater noise nuance than the DNL standard. Sones represent the perception of loudness and help capture aviation noise annoyance. In our estimation, the FAA report merely stands by the agency’s existing DNL metric and enumerates existing methodology with no regard to the value of improved and updated alternatives.

As a result, the FAA is effectively treating supplemental noise metrics as an asterisk to noise measurement rather than a comprehensive toolbox from which to address noise impacts. The FAA relegates supplementary metrics to an ancillary role by asserting that, “No single noise metric can cover all situations,”6 and that while the “DNL metric is FAA’s decision-making metric, other supplementary metrics can be used to support further disclosure and aid in the public understanding of community noise effects.”7 Nowhere in the report do we find clear guidance on how and when supplemental noise metrics could be used in flight procedure design decisions or to alleviate existing noise – even as the public health impact of noise continues to spread. U.S. standards to protect human health from airplane noise are not only glaringly ineffective, they also trail Western Europe’s. In its 2018 Noise Guidelines for European countries, the World Health Organization recommended using a threshold of 45 dB or lower for day and evening aircraft noise8 – that constitutes 20 dB less than the DNL metric employed by the FAA, which also does not disaggregate evening-levels from night. Far from trailing Western European nations, the U.S. should be demonstrating global leadership to mitigate the public health effects of aircraft noise.

When the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 was passed into law, Congress sought to address community airplane noise concerns by utilizing the scientific and research arms of the FAA to substantively evaluate alternative noise metrics with an eventual eye to having those metrics inform FAA decision-making. There is widespread consensus that the DNL metric remains an inadequate measure because it averages noise over a 24-hour period, thereby understating the impact of individual noise incidences. Thus, the congressional intent underpinning Sections 188 and 173 was to address the inadequacy of the DNL metric and nudge the FAA towards a more comprehensive measure. The report fails to understand that intent. Instead, we have received a delayed and highly insufficient report that does not address community impacts of noise.

Therefore, we, the undersigned Members of Congress, insist that the FAA return to the drawing board and meaningfully evaluate alternative metrics to the current DNL 65 average, not just dismiss or ignore them, and include the potential for the use of such metrics in the United States. Furthermore, we seek formal responses to the questions in the appended Citizens’ Response Report, a Technical Report to the FAA’s April 2020 Report on Alternative Noise Metrics (Reauthorization Act of 2018, Sections 173 and 188). The concerned constituents who raised these eleven questions live in communities directly affected by increased noise from NextGen implementation. We request formal responses to each question.

Without a thorough and nuanced analysis of the DNL standard and better, more accurate metrics, progress on aircraft noise will remain elusive. It is therefore imperative that the FAA meet its congressional mandate and begin the report anew while also addressing our constituents’ questions. We look forward to the agency’s response, including its plans to follow through on our request.

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Representative Adam Smith (WA-09) and Representative Pramila Jayapal (WA-07) sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urging the State Department to work with the Ethiopian government and other stakeholders to address violence and violations of human rights in Ethiopia.

“As representatives of one of the largest Ethiopian Diaspora groups in the country, we are alarmed by the growing unrest and reports of human rights abuses in Ethiopia,” wrote Reps. Smith and Jayapal. “Ethiopia is an important partner in the region that helps promote security and economic and political stability… Disturbing reports of widespread violence against ethnic and religious communities threaten the stability and social fabric of the country.”

“Furthermore, we are concerned about the arrests and detention of individuals, particularly youth, that are potentially politically motivated,” the Reps. continued. “A peaceful and stable Ethiopia is important to the United States, to security and prosperity in the region, and to the Ethiopian Diaspora communities across the U.S. We urge you to work with the Ethiopian government and other stakeholders to bring an end to the violence and restore democratic norms and human rights in Ethiopia.”

You can read the full letter here and below:

The Honorable Michael R. Pompeo
Secretary
United States Department of State
2201 C Street NW 85
Washington, D.C. 20520 

Dear Secretary Pompeo:

As representatives of one of the largest Ethiopian Diaspora groups in the country, we are alarmed by the growing unrest and reports of human rights abuses in Ethiopia. Ethiopia is an important partner in the region that helps promote security and economic and political stability. We urge the Department of State to do everything in its power to work towards a peaceful resolution to the violence and to restore democratic processes and human rights.

When Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed took office in 2018, we were encouraged to see his commitment to economic and political reforms within Ethiopia and to pursuing peace with neighboring countries. Unfortunately, recent events undermine progress in these areas. Excessive use of force against protestors by the Ethiopian security forces have been documented. This comes on the heels of limits on free speech and restrictions on an open internet that run counter to the inclusive, open political reforms committed to by Prime Minister Abiy early in his tenure. In addition, disturbing reports of widespread violence against ethnic and religious communities threaten the stability and social fabric of the country.

Furthermore, we are concerned about the arrests and detention of individuals, particularly youth, that are potentially politically motivated. This includes the arrests of two Washington state residents on June 30, 2020, Yusuf Beshir and Redwan Aman. Both have since been released on bail but are not allowed to leave the country. Concerns for their safety remain especially as violence and unrest grows. We ask that you work with the Ethiopian government to ensure due process in their cases and the safe return of both Yusuf and Redwan to their communities here in Washington.

A peaceful and stable Ethiopia is important to the United States, to security and prosperity in the region, and to the Ethiopian Diaspora communities across the U.S. We urge you to work with the Ethiopian government and other stakeholders to bring an end to the violence and restore democratic norms and human rights in Ethiopia.

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Representative Adam Smith (D-Wash.) and lead sponsor Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ) issued the following statement on passage of the Accelerating Veterans Recovery Outdoors Act which would help expand opportunities for military veterans to heal and seek treatment through outdoor recreation and public lands. The bill was included as part of nine provisions in the Veterans COMPACT Act to address gaps in current law to ensure veterans in crisis can receive emergency mental health care regardless of cost and better address issues that may lead to suicide.

“Access to the outdoors can have a profound impact on our veterans’ mental health and a tangible effect on physical wellbeing as a part of comprehensive therapy,” said Reps. Adam Smith and Chris Smith. “Veteran assistance groups agree that access to nature, combined with other treatments like group activities, have positive therapeutic effects on veterans especially those struggling with combat-related injuries or post-traumatic stress.

“By bringing together stakeholders from veterans, environmental, and outdoor recreation organizations, the Accelerating Veterans Recovery Outdoors Act will help increase opportunities for veterans and their families to experience the benefits of the public lands and outdoors spaces that their service to our country has protected,” the Reps. continued. “We are proud to see the House passage of this bipartisan legislation, and we commend our colleagues for recognizing the need for this legislation to help our nation’s veterans and their families experience the outdoors – we urge our colleagues in the Senate to do the same.”

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Representative Adam Smith (D-Wash.), Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, today issued the following statement after reports by The Washington Post highlighted that the Department of Defense repurposed funds allocated for pandemic relief.

“Today’s reporting confirms once again that the Trump Administration continues to exploit the trust of the American people. The congressional allocation of $1 billion under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act of 2020 (CARES Act), was intended to increase the short-term and long-term domestic production of critically needed medical supplies and equipment. Instead of focusing on a clear, coordinated strategy to produce and acquire the medical supplies necessary to respond to the ongoing COVID-19 health crisis, the Trump Administration carved up this billion-dollar appropriation and spent three dollars on defense contracts for every dollar it spent on acquiring health resources.

“I’ve long said that the Pentagon’s budget, which has continued to surge over time, is more than adequate to meet DoD’s operational needs. It is alarming that they have not properly aligned their spending with strategic priorities and continue to ask for more. DoD has requested an additional $5.3 billion for Defense Production Act Title III investments without providing a properly detailed spend plan.

“Our nation is counting on bold actions to bring us out of the grips of the pandemic crisis. With the safety and lives of our health care, first responder, and essential workforces at stake, the Department must be held accountable to administer the funding in the way Congress intended.”

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Representative Adam Smith (D-Wash.) issued the following statement after President Trump announced he would nominate a candidate to fill the Supreme Court vacancy this Saturday.

“The President and Senate Republicans’ decision to move forward with a Supreme Court nomination flies in the face of precedent and their own words. 237 days before the 2016 election, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that a Supreme Court nominee should not be appointed and confirmed during an election year. We heard this same argument repeatedly from Senate Republicans. Yet the very night Justice Ginsburg passed, 46 days out from the 2020 election, Senate Republicans decided that they would vote on her replacement.

“As we knew all along, Senate Republicans were never acting on principle when they blocked the confirmation of Merrick Garland in 2016. They are continuing to show their true colors by dismissing their own arguments from 2016 so they can rush a nominee through the Senate weeks before an election. It is important to remember what is at stake here. The fate of the Affordable Care Act, civil rights, abortion and women’s access to health care, LGBTQ+ rights, the environment, campaign finance, and more all hang in the balance.

“Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s legacy will forever be enshrined in our country’s history as a pioneer for equal justice and ensuring that the most vulnerable were given protection under our Constitution. She has left a profound impact on issues such as gender discrimination, voting rights, access to health care, same-sex marriage, and countless more issues that represent progress towards justice and quality.

“Justice Ginsburg made clear that she wished a replacement not be appointed until after the winner of the 2020 election is sworn in to ensure that the American people have their voices heard. I urge the Senate to honor her final request.”

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