Proposed bill directs FAA to hold public hearing on Condor flights over western Maine
WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senator Susan Collins, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, today announced that she has successfully included language in the Fiscal Year 2011 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations bill that directs the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to hold a public hearing in Western Maine regarding proposed Air National Guard training flights.
In a letter to the FAA earlier this year, Senator Collins requested that the agency hold a hearing in Maine as part of its consideration of the Massachusetts Air National Guard's proposal to expand and lower the flight level for the Condor 1 and Condor 2 flight training areas over western Maine. To date, the FAA has not made a commitment to schedule a hearing. Language that Senator Collins worked to include in the FY 2011 Transportation funding bill, which was approved today by the Senate Appropriations Committee, directs the FAA to hold such a public hearing. This bill must now be approved by the full Senate.
"I have worked to help ensure that the concerns of residents are considered before policy changes are made with regard to the proposal to expand and lower the flight level for Condor 1 and Condor 2 training areas over Western Maine," said Sen. Collins. "While I understand the need and importance of providing appropriate training capacity for our Air National Guard, we need all possible information about the effects of these proposed changes."
The language that Senator Collins had included in the FY 2011 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations bill is as follows:
"The Committee is concerned that the Federal Aviation Administration has not made a commitment to hold a public hearing in Maine during its consideration of the Air National Guard's Environmental Impact Statement proposing modifications to the Condor 1 and Condor 2 Military Operating Areas. The Committee understands that the Air National Guard, as the lead agency under the National Environmental Policy Act process, has sought to meet the minimum legal requirements for public participation and comment under the NEPA process, including holding four informational forums and a public hearing at the University of Maine. However, the Committee notes that the authorization of low altitude military training in the proposed airspace would impact areas that significantly contribute to the local economy and areas that are culturally and environmentally sensitive. In particular, the proposed low altitude training airspace covers four ski resorts, potential sites identified for wind energy development, 47,700 acres of a Federally Recognized Indian Tribe reservation, and 144 miles of the Appalachian trail. Furthermore, the Committee notes that the FAA is the only federal agency that can modify special airspace and that the Federal Aviation Administration may adopt the Air National Guard's EIS in whole, or in part, once the Final EIS has been issued. Therefore, the Committee directs the FAA to hold a public hearing with representatives from the relevant federal agencies in western Maine. In addition, the Committee directs the FAA to provide a report to the Senate Appropriations Committee prior to the issuance of a Record of Decision regarding the modification of the Condor 1 and Condor 2 Military Operations Areas that includes a summary of the public hearing and a list of the comments, questions, and responses presented at the hearing."