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Aviation noise and emissions are environmental justice issues

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In Washington and around the world, as the urgency of the climate crisis increases, the need to confront environmental justice has rightly become a growing priority. But when it comes to environmental justice, one issue has long been overlooked: aviation noise and emissions.

For decades, the United States has invested in infrastructure and transportation systems and adopted land use policies that have contributed to a high concentration of noise and pollution in low-income communities and communities of color. Communities near airports and airways are no different.

The effects aviation noise and pollution have on communities is an issue of environmental justice and health equity – and this is also true here in King County.

Unfortunately, support for communities affected by the aviation sector is sorely lacking. It is time for the federal government to take a more proactive role in mitigating the impacts of airports and aircraft on communities. The Environmental Protection Agency and other federal agencies have developed a series of programs targeted at environmental justice initiatives, but none focus specifically on communities affected by aviation noise and emissions.

The lack of such a program is a glaring gap in our environmental and public health efforts, which is why I introduced the Aviation Noise and Emissions Mitigation Act.

The Federal Aviation Administration, the federal entity responsible for these matters, is simply not equipped to meaningfully address the environmental justice and health equity challenges related to noise and emissions. If we are to treat this issue as a matter of environmental justice and fairness, then agencies like the EPA that lead our work on environmental health and air quality need to be more engaged.

The Aviation Noise and Emissions Mitigation Act that I introduced would help us better understand the effects of noise and emissions in our communities and fund community-led initiatives to mitigate the impact on the environment, public health and the quality of life of residents living near airports and the air. – flight paths.

As the aviation sector has grown, with more and more people traveling more frequently, significant investments have been made in airport infrastructure. We need to make similar investments in communities that are feeling the negative effects of aviation. This means not only investing in new technologies to decarbonize air travel and expand other forms of zero-emission travel, but also allocating funds to communities disproportionately affected by aviation.

President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better Act and the recently enacted bipartisan infrastructure bill provide a unique opportunity to invest in communities close to airports and airways. The bills mark a historic investment in environmental protection and transportation, with an emphasis on environmental justice and equity. Many of the communities most affected by noise and emissions from airports and airplanes are the same communities facing disproportionate environmental risks from other sources.

Residents living in communities affected by aviation can no longer wait for relief from the public health consequences of exposure to high concentrations of pollutants and high levels of aviation noise.

Congress and the federal government must establish new programs to better measure the environmental and public health consequences of exposure to high levels of noise and emissions, and invest in resources to reduce these impacts on these communities.

Millions of Americans who live near aviation hubs – like my constituents on the 9the District – deserve nothing less.