SACRAMENTO — Those living near the Santa Monica Airport who are concerned about pollution from jets have a potential ally in the state Legislature.
A resolution asking federal authorities to impose restrictions to reduce noise and air pollution at SMO is awaiting a vote in the state Senate after passing in the assembly 46 to 21 on June 21.
The joint resolution, titled Relative to Santa Monica Airport, or AJR 41, was authored by Assemblyman Ted Lieu (D-53rd District), co-authored by Santa Monica state Sen. Fran Pavley (D-23rd District) and sponsored by Concerned Residents Against Airport Pollution (CRAAP), a group of residents near the airport fighting air and noise pollution.
The non-binding resolution urges the Federal Aviation Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Department of Transportation to review noise levels, the safety of flight operations at SMO and to carefully examine the air pollution impact on the surrounding communities.
The resolution was introduced to the Assembly on April 20 after a February study at UCLA found jet take-offs and landings are contributing to elevated levels of black carbon that is associated with respiratory and cardiovascular diseases.
“One of the reasons I authored this resolution was to raise awareness of the pollution,” Lieu said. “People have been breathing it in and getting sick, and I’m at a loss as to why nothing has been done.”
He said he hopes the Obama administration’s FAA is less industry-friendly than that of previous administrations and is more receptive to the resolution’s requests.
Martin Rubin, the director of CRAAP, said the key issue addressed in this resolution is that there are no federal regulations that protect residents who live near airports. As far he knows, this resolution is the first of its kind, Rubin said.
He said he would like the resolution to force the FAA to impose a buffer zone of at least a mile between where jets take off and residents live. That would either mean restricting use for larger jets so the runway could be shortened or buying the surrounding homes so there are no nearby residents.
“People with a financial interest in operating the jets are trying to guard their turf,” Rubin said of why nothing has been done to address the pollution.
Lieu said there has been no formal lobbying opposition to the resolution.
But the Aircraft Owners and Pilot Association (AOPA), a national nonprofit organization for general aviation, is concerned with and has been watching the resolution, said Chris Dancy, media relations director for the AOPA. Though the resolution is non-binding, AOPA disagrees with the resolution’s call to the FAA to allow Santa Monica to ban the fastest classes of airplanes: C and D. City Hall voted to ban class C and D aircraft in 2007, but was blocked from doing so by the FAA.
“We hope at some point the FAA and the city can work together instead of the city taking charge,” Dancy said. “Only the FAA has authority to determine which aircraft can use an airport.”
But Pavley said it is necessary that the resolution encourage the FAA to honor Santa Monica’s decision to restrict which aircraft use SMO, as residents remain concerned.
“With this joint resolution, we are sending a strong and clear message to the federal government that the FAA and the EPA should work together with Santa Monica city officials and with local residents to review and address noise issues, air pollution emissions, and safety of flight operations at Santa Monica Municipal Airport,” she said. “My office has received more than 100 e-mails and letters from homeowners who are concerned by the daily impacts of the increased noise and the increased pollution from the growth in jet traffic at Santa Monica Airport over the past decades.”
The resolution is expected to be voted on in the Senate by the end of the legislative session, Aug. 31, and may be voted on as soon as Thursday, Lieu said. He said he is optimistic about the Senate passing it.
“Because this resolution is factual,” he said, “it’s hard to be opposed.”