March 31, 2000
President William J. Clinton
Re: H.R. 1000:The Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act
Dear Mr. President:
On behalf of our 400,000 members nationwide, I am writing to express our grave reservations about H.R. 1000, the Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment & Reform Act for the 21st Century ("AIR-21"). Along with the many organizations that have already written you in opposition to this bill, we ask that you immediately order a comprehensive study of the health and environmental impacts of America's growing aviation industry, and direct the Environmental Protection Agency and the Federal Aviation Administration to develop a strategy that mitigates these impacts.
Aviation is America's fastest growing transportation sector-commercial aircraft miles are growing at a 3.7% annual rate, and annual cargo miles are growing at a torrid 7.8% clip, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Unfortunately, this growth comes with an environmental price:
The aviation sector provides 13.5% of the nation's transportation-related carbon dioxide emissions, largely due to the high energy intensity of air travel. In fact, every passenger-mile in a commercial aircraft uses over eight times as much energy as a passenger-mile in an automobile and over ten times as much energy as a passenger-mile in an inter-city rail car. Aircraft contrails and high-altitude nitrogen oxide emissions add to aircraft's disproportionate share of greenhouse gas emissions.
H.R. 1000 does not address these critical environmental issues. Instead, it provides funding and other mechanisms to maintain the current pace of aviation growth-without providing enforceable obligations to mitigate the impacts of this growth. Further, it streamlines the process for reviewing and approving airport expansion projects-at a time when communities should be provided with important public participation opportunities. Finally, it phases out the "High-Density Rule"-the only enforceable limit on air travel in heavily-polluted New York City and Chicago. In short, AIR-21 won't help 21st Century Americans meet their environmental and quality of life goals, and will lead to further aviation-related impacts on our nation's air, water and communities.
For these reasons, we strongly urge you to consider our concerns before taking any action on H.R. 1000. Further, we reiterate our request that you direct the Environmental Protection Agency and the Federal Aviation Administration to begin a comprehensive report on the environmental impacts of the aviation sector, including a strategy to mitigate these impacts.
Thank you for your leadership on this important environmental issue. I look forward to your response.
Very truly yours,
cc: John Podesta