NBAA Warns of 'Severe Sanctions' in Latest SMO Limits

 - November 2, 2015, 11:24 AM

NBAA is vowing to hold the city of Santa Monica, Calif., accountable for a series of measures approved October 27 that impose new restrictions on emissions and other pollutants at Santa Monica Airport (SMO), including a prohibition on the sale and use of certain types of fuel. The vote is the latest effort by the city to exert control over and limit aviation uses at SMO. City leaders have been seeking to close the airport, and in early October wrote Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), saying, “The adverse impacts of the ongoing airport operations continue to plague our community. Emissions, noise and safety risks imperil the community and degrade local quality of life.”

NBAA, which has jointly filed a Part 16 complaint urging the FAA to ensure Santa Monica honors its grant assurance agreements, said last week that it “is considering appropriate actions to respond to the council’s decision to ignore its legal obligations, and to proceed with the measures.”

Before the City Council vote, NBAA COO Steve Brown wrote Santa Monica Mayor Kevin McKeown, warning that the restrictions “are incompatible with the city’s binding federal obligations and could lead to severe sanctions, including the termination of all [Department of Transportation] grants to the city, as well the reversion of SMO to federal ownership.” Brown added that the FAA has warned that environmental restrictions “must be rational and cannot be a mere façade for access restrictions.”

NBAA restated its belief that the city is beholden to AIP commitments that are in effect until 2023, as well as deed-based commitments that are in effect in perpetuity.

In its letter to Lieu, McKeown disagrees, saying the city believes “our grant obligations were fulfilled and discharged in 2014.” He also urged Lieu to push the FAA to resolve the Part 16 complaint expeditiously. “The FAA’s latitude in resolving the question of the expiration of the grant obligations is a substantial impediment to achieving relief for the community and progress on exercising control of the city’s land.”

NBAA’s Brown agreed that it would be preferable for the proceedings to advance swiftly, but said “it is highly inappropriate that the city has recruited political intervention…in an effort to interfere with FAA deliberations. The city should not take any precipitous action while legal questions about the airport are working their way through FAA administrative and court proceedings.”