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Rockefeller seeking EAS support
February 28, 2011
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  • By Jess Mancini

    PARKERSBURG – Sen. Jay Rockefeller is calling for a unified front of West Virginia congressmen to oppose cuts to the Essential Air Service Program serving more than 150 airports across America.

    It’s elimination being considered by Congress would impact four airports in West Virginia including the Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Airport in Wood County, the senator said.

    After the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978, airlines determined their markets and the fares to be charged. The Essential Air Service program enabled smaller airports to maintain a minimal level of service, such as subsidizing fares.

    “Year after year, I have fought to protect funding for our local airports in Beckley, Clarksburg, Morgantown and Parkersburg by making certain that they receive the federal funding they need to remain competitive. I fought off efforts to eliminate the EAS program in full or cut off specific communities,” Rockefeller, chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, said.

    “What’s needed now is a unified West Virginia delegation to come together and stand against these proposals, which could mean a cut in jobs, reducing business in the state, and decreasing tourism,” he said.

    In 2011, the four airports in West Virginia were allocated around $8 million. Mid-Ohio Valley received $2,642,237.

    The elimation would impact four flights a day at Mid-Ohio Valley, Rockefeller said.

    In the House of Representatives, the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on Feb. 16 approved an FAA reauthorization bill phasing out the Essential Air Service program by 2014. The elimination saves $400 million, the committee said.

    Reps. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., and Nick Joe Rahall, D-W.Va., are members of the committee. Capito voted in favor and Rahall, the ranking Democrat on the panel, voted against.

    “The house FAA bill, which Congresswoman Capito cosponsored, appropriates $98 million in FY 2011, $60 million in FY 2012, and $30 million in FY 2013 for the EAS program. The program would sunset in October, 2014, with the exception of airports in Alaska and Hawaii. The way the program works now, taxpayers subsidize flights to and from certain rural airports,” Capito spokesman Jamie Corley said Friday. “Congresswoman Capito believes air service to rural areas is important, and she supports assisting rural airports with the goal of making them sustainable in the near future. Four more years of funding allows these airports to create a business model that works best for each airport and the needs of their communities.”

    Two days later, amendments to the Senate version of the FAA reauthorization bill to eliminate the Essential Air Service program and cut off funds from small airports by moving costs for safety and other projects to local governments were defeated.

    An amendment to change the mileage requirement for airports in the EAS program from 70 to 90 miles apart was passed, impacting Morgantown and Clarksburg which have linked EAS service. Rockefeller said he was able to include a waiver for airports facing geographic hardship which could be used ensure continued West Virginia service.

    NEWS AND SENTINEL2011-02-26false