New Study Says “Concentrations” of Noise Complaints Skew Aviation Noise Policy

Using what they call “high concentrations” of noise complaints from a few individuals as a jumping off point, Eli Dourado and Raymond Russell of George Mason University’s Mercatus Institute conclude that “[i]t would be a mistake to allow the preferences of a vocal but minuscule minority of citizens, however sympathetic their circumstances, to impede much-needed improvements in aviation.” (Report is available here: http://bit.ly/2eNayTd) The thrust of the report seems to be that the valid concerns of communities around airports about aviation noise can safely be ignored because there are only a few activist individuals.

The report diminishes the impact of aviation noise on communities by showing that in several cases a few individuals or households accounted for a high percentage of noise complaints. The implicit conclusion is that if people really were affected by aviation noise there would be more unique complainers. The report authors continue “[t]here are worrisome signs that this small, frustrated minority of citizens is affecting aviation policy.” They claim that noise abatement has an effect on fuel efficiency, which increases carbon emissions and raises ticket prices. However, what the report does not address is whether the concerns expressed by the citizens are valid and whether the citizens who do file noise complaints are a representative sample of the community instead of the sum total of those citizens who are affected by aviation noise.

While the report does not propose any firm policy options, it is worrisome that the effect of aviation noise on communities is should be downplayed because there are a few vocal individuals. There is enough evidence that the health, as well as the economic, effects of aviation noise have a wide ranging effect on communities.

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