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Committee Marks Up FAA Reauthorization; Key provisions For Alaska Included

Washington, D.C. – The U.S. House of Representatives' Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure held a legislative mark-up this morning of H.R. 658, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2011.  H.R. 658 is long-term legislation that will set policies and priorities for the nation’s aviation system, and create jobs through infrastructure improvements.  

Congressman Young worked with Chairman Mica to ensure key provisions for Alaska were included in this reauthorization:
  • the continuation of three dimensional mapping in Alaska
  • the continued funding of Essential Air Service in Alaska and Hawaii
  • an exemption from compliance with the regulations regarding the transportation within the State of Alaska of cylinders of compressed oxygen or other oxidizing gases aboard aircraft

“Aviation is an incredibly important industry to Alaska, a state densely populated with pilots,” said Rep. Young.  “An issue we face time and time again in Alaska is across-the-board rulemaking that does not take into account the special geographical and infrastructure needs of our state.  I thank Chairman Mica for his willingness to understand these issues and for working with me to make things right for Alaskans.  

“Receiving basic goods is not the same in the villages of Alaska as it is in most areas of the Lower 48.  Alaska is one-fifth the size of the United States, with a road system smaller than Rhode Island’s.  Most communities are completely isolated and can only receive necessities and medical care via air service.  An airplane in Alaska is equivalent to a car, truck, or train elsewhere.  Essential Air Service is essential for a reason; it’s a means of survival and it is very important to our state.

“Additionally, the compressed oxygen ruling that went into effect in 2009 by no means took into account a state that cannot reach many communities by ground transportation.  The expensive, inconvenient ‘superboxes’ being required to house oxygen cylinders did not account for the grandmother in Noatak that needs her oxygen or the clinic in Fort Yukon trying to serve the local people.  The one-size-fits-all approach to this new regulation was threatening the livelihoods and health of Alaskans without taking into account the unique make-up of our state.  

“It was very important that these provisions be included in this legislation in order to ensure that Alaskan aviation may continue to provide for Alaskan people.  This important legislation will come to the floor in the coming weeks and I will encourage its passing as it will provide much needed assistance to communities around the country, and to many in Alaska.”

A summary of other key provisions included in the FAA Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2011:

•   Bill provides approximately $4 billion in savings compared to current funding levels.  It requires the FAA Administrator to identify significant cost savings without cutting any safety critical activities.
•   Creates and protects more than 600,000 U.S. jobs over four years, according to estimates.
•   Requires FAA to identify significant cost savings, while ensuring that cuts are not made to safety critical activities.
•   Phases out funding and sunsets the Essential Air Service (EAS) Program, providing savings of approximately $400 million over four years, with the exception of Alaska and Hawaii.
•   Includes binding arbitration for air traffic controllers and other FAA employees to resolve labor impasses.

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