By Ann Guthrie Hingston
Second Vice Chairman, MCGOP
Just a year ago, a handful of people living near the Potomac River in southwestern Montgomery County came together to discuss the increased number of planes flying overhead, causing incessant jet engine noise and air pollution. There had always been some noise from flights over the Potomac, but now the noise was louder and occurring every 3 minutes, beginning early in the morning and extending well into the night. Without notice, the Federal Aviation Administration had changed its flight paths for Ronald Reagan National Airport.
Moving quickly, neighbors organized the Montgomery County Quiet Skies Coalition, which drew residents from 29 neighborhoods with 20,000 residents in Legislative District 16. Fifteen civic associations became charter members.
After researching the political, economic, historic and technical roots of the airplane noise problem, leaders of the bipartisan group created written and visual materials to share with officials and the media. They learned that their concerns were shared by communities near Baltimore Washington International Airport, as well as by residents near major airports in other states. Also, there had been a successful lawsuit against the FAA in Arizona.
The Coalition developed a strategy that pushed for action on many fronts: local, regional, national, political, technical and legal. They reached out and met with Montgomery County officials, Maryland’s Congressional delegation, and Members of Congress responsible for aviation issues. They also met with Governor Larry Hogan and received his strong support.
I attended a Quiet Skies Coalition meeting in September and was most impressed with the presentation by Sean Powell, deputy chief of staff to Governor Hogan. Mr. Powell had been following the issue for some time and reported that the governor shared their frustration with the FAA. He was taking action to help them and the communities near BWI.
On September 12, Governor Hogan directed the state attorney general to take legal action against the FAA. State Attorney General Brian Frosh announced on October 31 that he had hired outside legal counsel to sue the FAA.
Watch for further action on this issue.