Norton Raises Concerns About Proposal to Privatize the Air Traffic Control System, Citing Airplane Noise Issues in D.C. and Nationwide

WASHINGTON, D.C. – February 11, 2016 – (RealEstateRama) — Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) today at a House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee hearing examining a proposal to transfer authority over the nation’s Air Traffic Control System (ATC) to a private corporation expressed her concern about its feasibility and its responsiveness to the public on issues such as airplane noise, which has become a major problem in the District of Columbia and throughout the country. However, Norton said that she appreciated how Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA) had incorporated into his proposal some provisions to address her concerns, including some provisions on airplane noise. Norton’s concern was how a private corporation, not structured as an administrative agency of government, would respond to the public. At the hearing, Paul Rinaldi, President of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, listed a litany of problems that the ATC System privatization would address, such as those caused by the sequester, government shutdowns, and uncertainty of appropriations funding. Norton said that these problems, however, were congressionally-inflicted problems on the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), not problems arising from the agency itself, and hardly a reason to take more than $50 billion in assets and give them for free to a private corporation. Norton said that the FAA’s dysfunction does not make the case for severing the ATC controllers from the FAA. She said most surprising was how the proposal encourages litigation to resolve differences between the private corporation and the FAA. The Secretary of Transportation would have 45 days to approve a decision or action by the corporation’s board, and if the board disagrees with the Secretary’s decision, the Secretary would have to sue the corporation in order to prevail, introducing the judiciary, the slowest of all branches of our government, into the present ATC System.

“Because the private corporation would not be a governmental agency, what recourse would be available if the corporation issued rules or policies that would necessitate public feedback?” Norton said. “Although the Secretary of Transportation can appoint two members to the corporation’s board, no member of the public is required to be on the board. The process for ensuring that the public’s concerns are addressed under this proposal remains a mystery.”

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