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City Council Cracks Down on Santa Monica Airport Pollution

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark

Pacific Park, Santa Monica Pier

Harding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP  law firm
Harding, Larmore
Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

Convention and Visitors Bureau Santa Monica

By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

(This article was revised to remove a misattributed quote to Concerned Residents Against Airport Pollution.)

October 29, 2015 -- In an effort to impose more control on operations at Santa Monica Airport, the City Council on Tuesday voted 6-to-0 to enact strict new anti-pollution rules as it continues its battle to close the century-old facility.

After testimony from two dozen speakers, the council voted to direct staff to study the possibility of “migrating” aviation uses to the western parcel, banned flight schools from the airport and gave the City control of selling fuel, ending third-party involvement.

In addition, the Council voted to impose a total cap on all pollutants generated at the airport, not just emissions, as originally proposed, and began moving toward restricting aviation to daylight hours.

Before casting its vote after midnight, the Council also added several last minute motions, including a call by Mayor Kevin McKeown to install pollution-monitoring equipment.

“Just as we have noise (monitoring) stations at the airport, we should have pollution stations,” said McKeown, adding that polluters would pay for their cost.

The Council also voted to allow only unleaded fuel at the airport. “Get the lead out,” said McKeown, an early supporter of the anti-pollution measures.

At the public hearing, a representative of the National Business Aviation Association said the City had no authority to impose its own pollution standards on the airport, which is overseen by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Environmental issues are addressed at the national level, said Stacy Howard, the NBAA’s Western Region representative. They cannot be adopted “piecemeal” by local governments, she said.

Howard warned against the City taking “precipitous action” while it winds its way through the various litigations and other actions related to its decades-old battle to close the airport.

City officials did not address Howard’s concerns.

Tuesday’s restrictions are part of Santa Monica’s attempt to be more assertive in taking back control of its airport.  City Attorney Marsha Moutrie, in a report to the Council, acknowledged the fight to close the facility is far from over, but that curbing pollution is one action the Council can take fairly quickly.

Some opponents of the airport who testified Tuesday said the anti-pollution measures wouldn’t solve the main problem – too many aircraft.

“It’s not really a reliever for LAX. It’s an annex,” Robert Rigdon said of the century-old airport.  The anti-pollution rules, he said, “are not going to do anything to solve the real problem.”

Michael Brodsky, a professor at Loyola Marymount University, told the council that according to information he had gathered there had been an “amazing growth” in fuel sales and flights at the airport.

The Council’s vote Tuesday came amid the continuing clamor by residents to close the airport, which they say is so loud, polluting and dangerously close to homes that living nearby has become almost unbearable.

One speaker read a list of letters and complaints he had received, ranging from the inability to grow a vegetable garden to incidents of cancer allegedly linked to the pollution.

The anti-pollution measures approved Tuesday come amidst the City’s most recent feud with the FAA, this one over the agency’s repeated delays in deciding a claim filed by aviators that would extend the FAA agreement with the City set to expire last year until 2023.

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