Airport Noise & Capacity Act 1990 - Legislative History

The Airport Noise and Capacity Act of 1990 (ANCA) was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Wendell Ford (KY) on September 24, 1990, as S. 3094, co-sponsored by Sen. John McCain (AZ) (see Ford's remarks). That same day the bill was read twice and immediately referred to the Committee on Commerce -- a sure sign the bill was being railroaded.

On Oct. 10 the committee ordered the bill reported to the Senate, and on Oct. 16 Sen. Hollings reported the bill on the Senate floor without a written report.

The day before, on Oct. 15, Rep. Leon Panetta had introduced in the House an omnibus "budget reconciliation act" (H.R. 5835). When the omnibus bill arrived in the Senate, ANCA was bundled into it, thus effectively precluding debate in the House on ANCA.

The motive behind ANCA was boldly stated at the beginning of the findings -- literally the first words of the bill: "aviation noise management is crucial to the continued increase in airport capacity...." Behind this declaration was a desire to increase federal control over local airport planning. By increasing federal control the airlines benefited because they had enormous influence in the Congress. The introduction of the new "stage 3" aircraft noise-suppression standards -- set by an international organization and officially adopted by individual countries -- provided a convenient hook for greater control. The argument of the airlines was that the introduction of these standards should not be impeded by a variety of local noise-abatement measures.

During the Senate-House conference committee's closed deliberations on the omnibus bill, Senator Ford's staff brought the ANCA bill, page by page, to airline lobbyists waiting outside the conference room. (Airport Noise Report, vol. 2, no. 21, page 178.) The public had been completely shut out of the legislative process.

Kathy Lane, executive director of the Suburban O'Hare Commission, a coalition of cities affected by noise from Chicago's O'Hare Airport, was one of the few public-interest activists in Washington, D.C. while ANCA was being pushed through Congress. According to Lane, the architect of ANCA was Secretary of Transportation Sam Skinner, who comes from Chicago and whom Lane accused of designing an aviation policy that would help Chicago's controversial effort to expand O'Hare. (Ibid) For example, ANCA includes authority to spend "passenger facility charges" (a surcharge on flight fares) on new facilities.

According to Lane, Galen Reeser, DOT's assistant secretary for governmental affairs, lobbied the Congress directly and repeatedly for the bill. Lane said Reeser was overhead saying, "Boy, this is really going to stick it to the communities." (Ibid)