National League of Cities Policy -- Noise Control

The following is an excerpt from Section 2, Energy, Environment, and Natural Resources,
of the National Municipal Policy adopted by the National League of Cities in 1997.

2.09 Noise Control

A. Problem Statement

Unmanaged noise is adversely affecting the quality of life and is a threat to the public health, safety, and welfare in our cities and towns. Noise abatement efforts have primarily focused on transportation modes, principally airplanes. Citizens have also raised concerns about highways and rail noise issues. Cities have been in the lead in controlling noise pollution and should continue their initiatives. City efforts, coupled with federal support on interstate transportation issues, will ensure a healthier environment and quality of life.

B. Goals

1. Federal Role

The federal government should, using the best available technologies, concentrate regulatory activities on establishing and monitoring noise limits for major surface and air transportation vehicles used in interstate commerce, (e.g., airplanes, buses, trains and trucks).

There should be ongoing federal research on noise mitigation, particularly on developing more sophisticated noise measurement devices. A program of direct federal technical and financial assistance should be maintained to assist local governments in managing local noise control programs and agencies. Sufficient federal assistance should be made available and targeted to severely noise distressed cities to help develop strategies to lessen noise impact. Transportation Trust Fund issues related to airport and highway noise policies are contained in the Transportation and Communications chapter, Section 5.03, (A)(3) Air Transportation.

There should be a cooperative federal/local program to build local noise program capabilities.

C. Policies

1. Local Regulatory Responsibility

The federal government should permit state and local governments to establish more stringent noise standards, except in instances of safety. Cities must be free to achieve locally determined environmental noise standards for the protection of public health and safety through licensing, regulation, comprehensive zoning and land-use control, or restriction of the sale for use, the operation, or the movement of noise sources.

2. Airport Noise Policies

NLC supports the work undertaken by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to implement an airport noise policy through implementation of noise emission standards. As land uses change due to economic shifts, it is imperative that cities coordinate growth to ensure economic expansion while providing a quality environment. The following policies should be pursued:

a. The FAA should continue enforcement of target dates to further reduce noise emissions from civil and commercial aircraft by levels and schedule consistent with state-of-the-art in aircraft noise abatement technology.

b. The federal government should assist local airports in landing, take off, climb and descent rate procedures to minimize noise impact.

c. The federal government should provide technical assistance to local communities in land use planning for airport development. A federal program to support advance acquisition of property schedules to be incorporated in airport development under comprehensive airport plans must be initiated. This program must support acquisition of property outside airport property boundaries to minimize aircraft noise impact in existence as of the date of implementation. (See also CED, Section 3.06, Land Use.)

d. Local governments must have the authority and flexibility to establish more stringent or additional requirements on noise generators to achieve noise level relief. Such relief may include differential fees and/or fines for violation of noise standards.

e. The federal government, because it has significant responsibility for control of aircraft noise and aircraft, must work closely with local governments to mitigate damage claims resulting from aircraft pollution.

f. Local governments should be eligible to receive federal Airport Improvement Program grants for noise compatibility planning and for the implementation of approved plans. (See also T&C, Section 5.03, Air Transportation.)

3. Federal Airbases

The potential environmental degradation, because of noise and sonic boom resulting from the operation of supersonic transport planes, is a matter of grave concern. The federal government should establish that environmental degradation will not occur before permitting operations and overflights by supersonic transport aircraft.

The right of local airport operators and governments to determine whether supersonic operations should be permitted at their facilities must be preserved.

Military and air national guard aircraft and operations located in populated areas should be compatible with local noise plans. When economically feasible, operations that are unavoidably noisy should be located away from metropolitan areas. In those instances when it is not possible to transfer military and air national guard operations from an urban airport, the federal government should accept full responsibility for mitigation of damage.

4. Highway Noise Policies

Highway and street traffic noise, especially that associated with freeways and interstate highways, is a major source of intolerable noise. Significant responsibility of control of highway noise lies with the federal government, and it must be exercised through a comprehensive federal program for highway noise abatement efforts.

The federal government should establish noise emission standards for trucks, buses, automobiles and motorcycles. State and local governments must have the authority to establish more stringent standards, including fines for violation of state and local noise standards and ordinances.

Further interstate construction and other federally funded highway construction in urban areas should continue to include a provision for sound barriers or buffer zones to be constructed as an integral part of the highway as required by local governments.

5. Railroad Noise Policies

The federal government should establish minimum noise emission standards for railroad operating equipment.

Local governments should be able to adopt local rail noise control standards which are stricter than federal standards in order to alleviate the problem of excessive noise emanating from fixed rail facilities.

6. Planning for Noise Abatement

The development of noise generators, such as airports, industrial parks, highways and sports centers, should be strictly controlled so as not to created undesirable environmental effects. When federal assistance is utilized for the development of airports, highways and other noise generators, the federal government should ensure that cities have the tools with which to evaluate the noise impact of those facilities. The federal government should develop and disseminate noise standards and criteria which could be used by cities in noise planning and abatement efforts. 7. Buy Quiet Program Federal, state, and local governments and their contractors should, to the greatest extent practicable, use their purchasing power to ensure that new equipment and replacements bought for their use incorporate noise control features.