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Challenges to Santa Monica Airport Closure Deal Continue  

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Convention and Visitors Bureau Santa Monica

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Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

By Jonathan Friedman
Associate Editor

March 17, 2017 -- A Republican congressman from Louisiana who says he has a “deep concern” about the recently approved agreement to close the Santa Monica Airport (SMO) in 2028 is demanding clarifications from federal officials.

Rep. Ralph Lee Abraham wrote about his concerns in a letter this week to Michael Huerta, administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao.

He asked for the letter to be answered by April 4.

“From my perspective, this agreement departs from the long-standing principle that the federal government will preserve airport infrastructure and hold airport sponsors accountable, especially when they have accepted federal money and committed to deed-based obligations to operate the airport in perpetuity,” Abraham wrote.

He added, “The FAA’s concessions regarding SMO send the wrong message to the airport sponsors in my district and across the country that are closely monitoring the situation and are interested in imposing restrictions at or closing their own airports.”

Abraham’s district includes at least one regional airport.

The congressman’s letter comes the same week that the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) announced its intention to file an amicus brief in favor of a federal court challenge to the agreement.

This court challenge comes from several groups, including the National Business Aviation Association (“Aviation Groups Challenge Santa Monica Airport Closure Deal,” February 15, 2017).

In article on AOPA’s website titled “AOPA Backs Santa Monica in Court,” a headline that some people might consider misleading, author Jim Moore wrote that the move “is part of the association’s long-term strategy to build support for extending the airport’s life far beyond 2028.”

He added, “That will require a coordinated effort by pilots, business leaders, and advocacy groups to shift deeply entrenched opposition stemming from a vocal minority of city residents who oppose the airport and have elected politicians sympathetic to their cause.”

The agreement to close the airport was announced in January. The council approved it by a vote of 4-3, with the opposition saying a better deal could have been made ("City, FAA Agree to Close Santa Monica Airport in 2028," January 28, 2017).

City officials have already begun making progress toward the closure by planning for a future park on the City-owned property where the facility sits and with the council’s approval of a bid to shorten the airport runway (“Council Member Offers ‘Cautionary Statement’ as Santa Monica Moves Toward Airport Closure,” March 3, 2017).

The runway reduction is a feature of the agreement intended to curb the number of aircraft that could use the airport and it can be implemented this year.

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