Oct. 30, 2015

NBAA has reemphasized the Association’s commitment “to hold [Santa Monica] accountable” if it “were to adopt measures that are at odds with its legal obligations” to Santa Monica Airport (SMO), NBAA’s Chief Operating Officer Steve Brown wrote in a letter to the mayor and city council of Santa Monica, CA.

Santa Monica’s city attorney recently recommended aircraft emissions-related restrictions at SMO and the prohibition of the sale and use of certain types of aircraft fuels as conditions in future airport tenant leases. The attorney also proposed that the city condition future SMO leases on certain environmental remediation requirements, and that the city study the possibility of taking full responsibility for fuel sales at the airport.

While NBAA’s letter was referenced during an Oct. 27 presentation on these recommendations to the Santa Monica City Council, the council approved all of the proposals and directed the city staff take the steps necessary to put them into effect. NBAA is considering appropriate actions to respond to the council’s decision to ignore its legal obligations, and to proceed with the measures.

The Association said the proposal to cap total emissions at SMO would violate the city’s Airport Improvement Program grant assurances and the commitments in the airport’s 1948 surplus property deed. “This proposal also conflicts with the FAA and EPA’s exclusive jurisdiction over aircraft emissions,” NBAA said in its letter.

Unlike Santa Monica’s challenges of its grant and deed obligations, wrote Brown, regarding the FAA and EPA’s emissions jurisdiction “there is no dispute that the underlying statutes are applicable to the city and SMO. Accordingly, there is simply no further basis for consideration of this proposal as formulated.” NBAA noted that Santa Monica accepted grant commitments that “allow all types of aeronautical activities at the airport.”

The AIP commitments are in effect through 2023, but the deed-based commitments are effective in perpetuity, NBAA wrote.

NBAA also urged the city to exercise “extreme caution” if it proceeds with environmental remediation requirements for tenants or takes over fuel sales at the airport. The FAA stipulates that “environmental conditions must be rational and cannot be a mere façade for access restrictions,” and should the city exercise its proprietary right to conduct fuel sales, it must be entirely in-house. “FAA requirements establish that it could not rely on third-party vendors.”

In closing, the NBAA letter agreed with the city attorney “that the city should not take any precipitous action while legal questions about the airport are working their way through FAA administrative and court proceedings.”

Read NBAA’s full letter to Santa Monica city officials. (PDF)