FAA Issues Final Environmental Assessment and FONSI/ROD for Cleveland/Detroit Metroplex

On April 30, 2018, the Federal Aviation Administration issued its Final Environmental Assessment (http://bit.ly/2syCyhF) and Finding of No Significant Impact/Record of Decision (FONSI/ROD http://bit.ly/2kHMkKZ ) for what it calls the “Cleveland/Detroit Metroplex.” In essence, as part of the FAA’s “Next Generation Air Transportation System” (“NextGen”), the FAA is redesigning most of the flight routes in the Cleveland and Detroit areas to accommodate “Performance Based Navigation” (PBN) procedures, which utilize satellite-based technology instead of land-based radar systems.

In a June 1, 2018, email announcing the issuance of the Final Environmental Assessment and the FONSI/ROD the FAA noted that although “It showed the proposed action would not result in any significant noise increases under the National Environmental Policy Act. However, there would be a reportable noise increase that could potentially affect approximately 335 residents in the Sumpter Township, Wayne County, southwest of Detroit Metro Airport.” According to the FAA, the existence of “reportable noise increases” does not require the FAA to issue a Environmental Impact Study instead of an Environmental Assessment. Nor does it require the FAA to mitigate the increase in noise caused by the project.

Continuing, the FAA indicates that “[w]hen the Cleveland/Detroit Metroplex procedures are implemented, some people might see aircraft where they did not previously fly. This is because some air route changes will occur, and because satellite-based procedures create more concentrated flight paths than conventional procedures.” But, again, offers no respite for those people who are affected by changes, since no mitigation is required by the FAA’s regulations.

However, in Vision 100 – Century of Aviation Reauthorization Act of 2003, Pub.L. No. 108-176, § 709(c), Congress laid out in detail the goals of the Next Generation Air Transportation System (“NextGen”). Using the mandatory “shall,” Congress directed the FAA “take into consideration, to the greatest extent practicable, design of airport approach and departure flight paths to reduce exposure of noise and emissions pollution on affected residents.” There is no indication in either the Final Environmental Assessment or the FONSI/ROD that the FAA complied with Congress’ mandate and actually considered developing routes and procedures that would reduce noise experienced by residents on the ground.

Finally, if anyone wants to challenge this decision, the petition for review must be filed within 60 days from the issuance of the FONSI/ROD. 49 USC 46110(a). Since the FONSI/ROD was signed on April 30, 2018, that means the petition for review must be filed no later than Friday, June 29, 2018. It can be filed in either the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit or the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

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