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Wilson Successfully Pushes for an Extension of FAA’s Public Comment Period on Flight Paths in Her District

Miami, FLAt the urging of Congresswoman Frederica S. Wilson, the Federal Aviation Administration announced today that it will extend to July 24, the public comment period on the Draft Environmental Assessment for the South-Central Florida Metroplex NextGen Project. The decision was made a day after the Florida lawmaker hosted a conference call with several representatives from the agency, Miami International Airport, and local government officials.

According to the FAA, the project includes upgraded, modernizing flight procedures that include new and more predictable flight paths, which it claims will improve the safety and efficiency of air and ground operations at local airports. It also would require airplanes to fly over specific, synchronized GPS points that will result in seven different flight paths directly above a concentrated area in the North Biscayne corridor neighborhoods in Congresswoman Wilson's district, which already must contend with noise pollution created by railroad traffic.

"In recent weeks, my office has received many constituent complaints about distressingly high levels of flight traffic and an increase in pollution and soot on their properties from low flying planes, which constituents believe is tied to the FAA's proposed plan. They are deeply concerned that it not only threatens their quality of life, but also will diminish the property values of thousands of homes in Miami-Dade County's northeast corridor," said Congresswoman Wilson, who sits on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. "Members of my staff have met with representatives of several homeowner associations who echoed these grave concerns."

Congresswoman Wilson pushed for an extension of the public comment period, which was set to expire on July 10, because she believes that many residents have been too preoccupied by the COVID-19 pandemic and in part because they were not adequately informed or were unaware of the looming July 10 deadline. While some constituents attended the FAA's virtual public workshop meetings, the platform did not allow participants to ask follow-up questions that would have enabled them to fully flesh out their concerns.

"While I am pleased that the FAA has extended the comment period, I was extremely frustrated during the call by a feeling that the proposed flight path plan is a fait accompli that cannot be changed and my constituents' concerns will fall on deaf ears," added Congresswoman Wilson.

That frustration is exacerbated by constituents' belief that other more affluent communities were able to successfully lobby for modifications before their environmental assessment phase.

"They fear that this is yet another example of the disparate treatment of the haves and have-nots in American culture, which is unacceptable. For generations, minority and low-income communities have been plagued by environmental injustice in various forms, including contaminated water and noise and air pollution," she continued.

This is not the lawmaker's first environmental battle. During her tenure as principal of Skyway Elementary, Miami-Dade County allowed a garbage company called Agripost to build a $27-million compost plant across from the school, which she feared would put at risk the health of students and staff and adversely affect the children's ability to learn. She and her students mobilized the community and relentlessly lobbied school board and government officials until the plant was closed.

"I hope to once again successfully lobby for a solution that will encourage the FAA to provide some relief to my constituents and strongly urge them to take advantage of this opportunity to make their voices heard," Congresswoman Wilson said.