FAA Proposes to Clarify Policy on Aviation Fuel TaxesOn November 21, 2013, FAA published notice of its intent to amend the Policy and Procedures Concerning the Use of Airport Revenue with regard to local taxes on aviation fuels. By statute, local taxes on aviation fuels in effect after January 1988 are to be used only for airport purposes and state aviation programs. The proposed changes would provide that the statutory limits (1) apply to both state and local aviation fuel taxes; (2) apply to any tax on aviation fuel, even if included in a broader tax on other products; (3) apply to taxes on aviation fuel dispensed at the airport, regardless of where the taxes are collected; and (4) apply to a new assessment or imposition of an aviation fuel tax, even if the tax could have been imposed before Dec. 30, 1987. For a copy of the Federal Register notice, click here.
DOT Publishes Final Rule Regarding Access to Air Travel For Disabled PassengersOn November 12, 2013, the Department of Transportation issued a Final Rule regarding access to automated airport kiosks and air carrier websites for passengers with disabilities. Certain restrictions now apply to airport operators that jointly own, lease, or control automated kiosks with U.S. and foreign air carriers. Specifically, airport operators must now work with air carriers to ensure that all new automated kiosks installed after December 12, 2016 meet detailed design requirements. This mandate applies until at least 25% of automated kiosks in each airport location meet those standards. Additional provisions of the Final Rule apply to: (1) websites operated by both foreign and domestic air carriers; and (2) disclosure of information by travel agents. For a copy of the Final Rule, click here.
FAA Publishes Policy for On-Airport Solar Installations
On October 23, 2013, FAA published its Interim Policy, FAA Review of Solar Energy System Projects on Federally Obligated Airports (the “Interim Policy”). The Interim Policy clarifies and adds standards for the measurement of both “glint” and “glare” as presented in FAA’s Technical Guidance for Evaluating Selected Solar Technologies on Airports (the “Technical Guidance”), originally published in 2010. Specifically, the Interim Policy clarifies an airport sponsor’s obligation to file FAA Form 7460-1 for all proposed on-airport solar installations, provides standards for ocular impact of solar installations, and identifies a computer-based tool for assessing ocular impact. FAA intends to finalize the Interim Policy and include the standards for ocular impact in an update to the Technical Guidance that will be published later this year. For a complete copy of the Interim Policy, please click here.
FAA Dismisses Complaint Against Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport Authority
On October 4, 2013, the FAA Director of the Office of Airport Compliance and Management Analysis dismissed a complaint filed under FAR Part 16 by an FBO against the Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport Authority. The Complainant alleged multiple violations of the Grant Assurances as a result of Respondent’s decision to develop a sponsor-owned, privately managed FBO at the Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport. The Director found that Respondent has not violated any of the Grant Assurances in connection with its development of the FBO facility, selection of an FBO to manage and operate the facility, and amendment of the Airport Minimum Standards. For a copy of the Director’s Determination, click here.
FAA Updates FAR Part 16
On September 12, 2013, FAA published amendments to 14 CFR Part 16, Rules of Practice for Federally-Assisted Airport Enforcement Proceedings. FAR Part 16 contains the procedures for filing and adjudicating complaints against airport sponsors for violations of the Grant Assurances and other federal obligations. This is the first amendment to Part 16 since its adoption in 1996. For a copy of the Federal Register notice, click here. For a copy of Kaplan Kirsch’s publication summarizing the changes and providing a complete copy of the amended rule, click here.
Court Upholds Long Island Helicopter Route
On July 12, 2013, the U.S. Court of Appeals rejected a petition by Helicopter Association International challenging the FAA’s decision to impose mandatory helicopter routes along the north shore of Long Island, New York. FAA issued a final rule in 2012 requiring helicopter pilots to use a route one mile off the northern shore of Long Island. Use of the route was recommended, but voluntary, prior to the final rule. HAI principally challenged the FAA’s authority to impose a mandatory route in response to noise complaints from local residents. The court determined that the FAA was authorized to impose routes in the interest of protecting homeowners from excessive noise and that the complaints and other noise data were sufficient evidence of a noise problem. For a copy of the court’s opinion, click here.
TRB Releases Report on Building Support for Airport Projects
On July 11, 2013, the Transportation Research Board released ACRP Report 85: Developing and Maintaining Support for Your Airport Capacity Project. The report describes the lessons learned from previous airport capacity projects and translates that experience into specific recommendations for building a team and process to undertake capacity projects and for communicating effectively with stakeholders. The report was prepared by a team of airport professionals, including the firm’s Peter Kirsch. To download or order the report from the TRB website, click here.
DOT Dismisses Proceeding Involving LAX Fees
On July 3, 2013, the Department of Transportation issued an order dismissing all claims remaining in a longstanding dispute involving fees imposed by regulation at Los Angeles International Airport. Several airlines operating at LAX initially challenged the fees in an administrative proceeding filed in 2007. Both DOT and the U.S. Court of Appeals found fault with certain aspects of how LAWA had calculated the fees, and the matter had been remanded to DOT for further consideration. LAWA ultimately negotiated agreements with the airlines over fees, in which the parties also agreed that the claims challenging the prior fees were moot. Upon motions of the parties, DOT dismissed the claims of the airlines with prejudice and terminated the proceeded. For a copy of the DOT order, click here.
Supreme Court Strikes Down Environmental Regulations at Port of LA
On June 13, 2013, the United States Supreme Court struck down certain provisions of a concession agreement between the Port of Los Angeles and trucking companies operating at the Port. In American Trucking Associations, Inc. v. City of Los Angeles, the Court held that two provisions of the concession agreement are preempted by the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act of 1994 (“FAAAA”). This case is of interest to the airport and aviation industry because the FAAAA preemption provision is very similar to the preemption provision in the Airline Deregulation Act and because airports regulate tenants and users in a similar way to how the Port of LA imposed requirements on trucking companies. ACI-NA submitted an amicus brief, prepared by the firm. The Court reversed the District Court and the Ninth Circuit in finding that the requirements were covered by the FAAA in light of the Port’s use of criminal penalties to coerce compliance with the concession agreements. To view and download the Court’s opinion, click here.
Court Rejects Challenge to Waste Transfer Station Near LaGuardia Airport
On April 9, 2013, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit dismissed a challenge to an FAA letter to the City of New York concerning the planned waste transfer station near LaGuardia Airport. In the letter, the FAA endorsed the findings of a blue-ribbon panel of experts and recommended that the City implement the panel’s recommendations for mitigating wildlife hazards associated with the transfer station. The court held that the letter was not a reviewable final order and that the court therefore lacked jurisdiction to consider the petition for review. For a copy of the court’s opinion, click here.