Montana Senators to FAA: Is it a public comment period if the public doesn’t know it?
April 11, 2014
(U.S. SENATE) – Senators Jon Tester and John Walsh on March 25, asked the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) a simple, yet important question: when is a public comment period really a public comment period?
The FAA recently began accepting comments on its study of the proposed expansion of the Powder River Training Complex – a 28,000 square mile Air Force training area that encompasses large parts of southeastern Montana, but will be used exclusively by aircraft at bases in North and South Dakota.
But the agency did not make the study widely available, nor is it collecting comments electronically – something typically done by the federal government.
Tester and Walsh want the FAA to hold a full public comment period by posting the study on its website, collecting electronic submissions and extending the comment period another 90 days.
"The proposed expansion of the Powder River Training Complex would have significant impacts on Montana pilots and landowners," Tester and Walsh told FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. "We strongly believe additional steps need to be taken to ensure the FAA provides sufficient opportunity for public input."
Tester and Walsh, who called it "unacceptable" that the agency was not accepting electronic submissions in the year 2014, said pilots and landowners in eastern Montana would be negatively affected by expanding the training complex, which is currently about the size of South Carolina.
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"Many of the more than 4,000 pilots in our state would be impacted, which is why it is crucial that they, as well as other stakeholders, are aware of this study and have ample time to comment," Tester and Walsh said.
Tester and Walsh in February expressed their opposition to expanding the airspace to Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James and Chief of Staff General Mark Welsh. The Air Force will make a final decision on Powder River's expansion based in large part on recommendations from the FAA.
–The Hagstrom Report