By staff Reporter
February 16, 2011
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A proposed reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration approved by a U.S. House committee Monday could eliminate federal subsidies — and commercial flights — at four West Virginia airports and 110 airports nationwide.
The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee voted 34-25 Wednesday to end the subsidies at airports in, among other places, Parkersburg, Clarksburg, Beckley and Morgantown.
The proposal would still have to be passed by the full House of Representatives, reconciled with a Senate version and signed by President Obama.
The reauthorization act, authored by House Republicans and introduced last week, covers fiscal years 2011 to 2014. The most recent long-term FAA reauthorization act expired in 2007, and Congress has passed a series of short-term extensions to keep programs operating since then. The current extension is due to expire at the end of March.
Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., the top Democrat on the committee, said that a long-term reauthorization is important “in terms of providing stability in funding and with respect to enhancing safety for the flying public.”
But Rahall said he did not support the Republican-introduced reauthorization package approved by his committee on Wednesday because, among other things, it lopped Essential Air Service funding.
“By cutting off this critical lifeline, Republicans are telling rural Americans that the FAA now stands for ‘find another airport,'” Rahall said. “I am severely disappointed that partisan politics are being put above the passenger public.”
The Essential Air Service program was created as part of the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978. Subsidies were granted to air carriers for providing air service to and from selected smaller communities that would not be served without the funding.
In 2010, Essential Air Service subsidies totaled $1.05 million in Morgantown; $2.19 million in Parkersburg; $1.05 million in Clarksburg; and $2.09 million in Beckley.
Source: THE CHARLESTON GAZETTE