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Congressional Bid to Ground Pact Closing Santa Monica Airport by 2028 Thwarted


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By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

September 7, 2017 -- An attempt by a Louisiana congressman to de-fund enforcement of a controversial pact closing Santa Monica Airport by 2028 has been blocked, a top City official said Wednesday.

Ralph Abraham of the Fifth District of the U.S. House of Representatives, filed an amendment to a appropriations bill to stop funding for carrying out the consent decree reached in January by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the City Council, said Nelson Hernandez, senior advisor to the City Manager.

Hernandez said the amendment was denied, and thanked Ted Lieu, whose 33rd Congressional district includes Santa Monica, for helping to block it.

Abraham’s amendment sought to block any funds from being used to “administer, enforce, or implement in any manner” the January 30 agreement between the Santa Monica City Council and the FAA ("City, FAA Agree to Close Santa Monica Airport in 2028," January 28, 2017).

He expressed concerns over the consent decree shortly after its initial approval, saying it departed from the long-standing principle that the federal government will preserve airport infrastructure.”

“The Agency's Congressionally-authorized mission includes ensuring that airports remain safe and efficient while also protecting our entire aviation system.,” Abraham wrote to the head of the FAA and the federal Department of Transportation.

Meant to end a decades-long battle for control of SMO between the City and the FAA, the consent decree also cleared the way to dramatically reduce the airport's sole runway, making it too short for much jet traffic. That project is underway ("Santa Monica City Council Approves Contract to Shorten Municipal Airport Runway," August 10, 2017).

It also ended protracted litigation between the FAA and the City, although the aviation industry continues to fight it in court.

The National Business Aviation Association is trying to halt the decree. The U.S. Court of Appeals in May, however, denied to FAA’s request dismiss the case, instead referring the issue to a panel of judges ("Circuit Court Denies Injunction to Halt Implementation of Santa Monica Airport Closure Deal," May 5, 2017).

Among others involved in the aeronautics industry, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) said late last month it filed a friend-of-the-court brief against the decree.

AOPA said the decree “would not allow the public to file complaints with the FAA regarding issues at the airport that the agency would then be required to fairly and fully resolve according to a legal procedure.”

In the brief, filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, AOPA said the public has a right to challenge airports that are “disregarding their legal obligations and to make sure they uphold their responsibilities and commitments under federal law.”

The General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) also filed a separate amicus brief.

City Manager Rick Cole called the two briefs "predictable."

“There is nothing that strengthens their contorted arguments in this desperation lawsuit,” Cole told the Lookout.  “They will not overturn a Consent Decree that settled long-standing litigation between the City of Santa Monica and the Federal Aviation Administration. 

"Much as aviation interests would like to get another day in court, the future of the land owned by the people of Santa Monica returns to local control at the end of 2028.”

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