On Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021, Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) introduced the Aviation Noise and Emissions Mitigation Act, which would help communities near airports and airflight pathways monitor and mitigate aviation noise and emissions.

“For far too long, communities near airports and airflight pathways have been left to deal with the harm caused by aviation noise and pollution on the local level, without robust federal support,” Smith said. “Today, with the introduction of my legislation, that changes. We know that aviation noise and emissions have disproportionately affected low-income communities and communities of color. Therefore, we must treat these issues as a matter of environmental justice and health equity.

“While the Environmental Protection Agency and other federal agencies have developed programs to address environmental justice, none are focused specifically on the communities – like those in my district – who are negatively affected by aviation noise and emissions. The legislation introduced today will help us to better understand the effects of noise and emissions in our communities and fund initiatives driven by communities to mitigate these effects on the environment, public health, and quality of life of residents living near airports and airflight pathways.”

The Aviation Noise and Emissions Mitigation Act is supported by Quiet Skies Puget Sound, the Beacon Hill Council, the King County International Airport Community Coalition, and the Quiet Skies Coalition (King County).

Original cosponsors: Rep. Eleanor Norton (D-DC, Quiet Skies Caucus Co-Chair), Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA, Quiet Skies Caucus Co-Chair), Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA), Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY), Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA), Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Rep. Tom Souzzi (D-NY)

Studies have demonstrated that communities near airports and airflight pathways are exposed to higher proportions of pollution and harmful particles from aviation emissions. This can lead to increased risks of breast cancer, heart disease, asthma, and a variety of other lung and cardiovascular conditions. In addition to poor air quality, communities impacted by aviation are increasingly subject to high levels of aircraft noise due to the uptick in air travel over the last several decades. A number of studies have found correlations between exposure to high levels of airport noise and poor health outcomes and negative impacts on children’s learning.

In order to better support communities impacted by higher level of noise and emissions, the federal government must invest new resources into research and data on community-level impacts and grants to mitigate these impacts.

The Aviation Noise and Emissions Mitigation Act would create two new pilot grant programs at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for studies of air quality and noise and for mitigation projects in these communities:

Noise and Air Quality Monitoring and Research Grant Program – a three-year grant at the EPA for higher education institutions, health entities, or local governments to measure noise and emissions levels, and its impacts, on local communities. It would require grantees to collect data and produce neighborhood-level maps on the impact of aviation noise and emissions, the sources of the noise and emissions, and identify disproportionately impacted communities.

Mitigation and Support Services Grant Program – to be established following the noise and air quality monitoring program, this grant program would fund initiatives to mitigate aviation noise and emissions in communities. Eligible entities including community-based non-profit organizations, local or Tribal governments, or local health departments could use the funds for a range of activities such as:

noise mitigation packages for homes or other weatherization, retrofitting, or energy efficiency upgrades that have noise reduction, environmental, or health benefits;
programs to promote environmental and public health in impacted communities; and
health care services or other interventions that address underlying impacts from aviation noise and pollution on health and quality of life.

The legislation would require the EPA to prioritize mitigation grants to communities found to be disproportionately impacted by aviation noise and emissions, and disadvantaged communities with higher prevalence of diseases associated with environmental exposure. Grantees would be required to demonstrate how their project addresses environmental or health disparities.