Hogan directs Frosh to sue FAA over flight patterns at BWI, other airports

Phil Davis
Contact Reporterpdavis@capgaznews.com

Gov. Larry Hogan has asked the state attorney general to sue the Federal Aviation Administration over new flight patterns at BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport, siding with residents who say their neighborhoods have been harmed by increased noise.

In a letter Tuesday to Attorney General Brian Frosh, Hogan wrote that he wants the attorney general to sue the FAA and Administrator Michael Huerta, over the implementation of the Next Generation Airport System at BWI and Reagan National Airport. The $35 billion system was implemented at airports across the nation as an attempt to cut down on delays and carbon emissions but has been the target of complaints that the new flight paths cause planes to fly too low to the ground near residential neighborhoods.

“We have heard from countless Marylanders, including many community leaders and elected officials, about this continuing problem,” Hogan wrote. “This program has made many Maryland families miserable in their own homes with louder and more frequent flights which now rattle windows and doors.”

“As elected leaders of this state, we cannot allow this situation to stand,” he added.

Frosh spokeswoman Raquel Coombs said that while the Maryland Constitution grants Hogan the power to require the attorney general to pursue certain legal actions on behalf of the state, a lawsuit against the FAA is still an “ongoing discussion.”

“This is a concern that the attorney general and the governor (are) on the same side (about),” Coombs said, adding that a lawsuit is “not out of the realm of possibility.”

FAA spokeswoman Tammy Jones wrote in an email that the agency “is committed to hearing the community’s concerns and to fully and fairly consider any formal Community Roundtable-endorsed changes.”

In May, a FAA official sent a letter to the DC Metroplex BWI Community Roundtable — a group of community representatives established by the Maryland Aviation Administration — saying the administration could not revert to old flight paths immediately.

Federal officials also have argued their data shows a disconnect between residents and their experiences with plane noise. At a June meeting, officials said statistics compiled for two runways at BWI showed planes were higher during their approach to the airport than before the new system.

Mary Reese, the District 30 representative for the group, said a recent ruling in Arizona could pave the way for Frosh’s office to sue.

Last month, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled in favor of Phoenix, which sued the FAA over new flight paths at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.

The city and a neighborhood association argued the changes implemented in 2014 were “arbitrary and capricious,” adversely impacted historic sites and lacked public input.

The court agreed, ordering the paths’ implementation be vacated on Aug. 29.

“It certainly establishes precedent. That’s huge. That’s incredible,” Reese said. “There are many similarities to what we’ve experienced in Maryland and they experienced in Phoenix.”

Linda Curry, a Severna Park resident who chairs the BWI Noise Coalition, said both her group and the roundtable have been frustrated by what they see as a lack of communication and cooperation by FAA officials.

“It seems like across the country that the round tables try their best to accomplish something, but it always ends up they have to go the legal route,” she said. “What’s happened in Phoenix has energized everyone else. We now feel like there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.”

Anne Arundel County Council passed a resolution last week that supported the roundtable group that has also called for changes at the Linthicum and Washington airports.

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