Murkowski Presses For FAA Extension, Essential Air Service

“The Importance of Alaskan Air Service Cannot Be Overstated”

WASHINGTON, D.C. –Senator Lisa Murkowski joined Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) – a fellow member and Chair of the U.S. Senate Essential Air Service Caucus – in sending the attached letter to their Senate colleagues this morning urging support for a clean extension of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization, otherwise set to expire today.

“For the past several months I have worked with my colleagues from both sides of the aisle to preserve the Essential Air Service Program,” Murkowski said.  “We are urging our colleagues to join us in supporting a clean extension of the FAA bill that will provide the funding required to serve our rural communities nationwide – which makes up 20% of America’s population and even more of the 49th state, where many places simply can’t be reached by road and the importance of Alaskan air service cannot be overstated.

“If the current extension was allowed to expire we could lose millions of dollars in airport improvements, grants for safety and navigational maintenance and up to 79 Alaskans could be furloughed or laid off.  It is critical that Congress comes together to pass a long term authorization for the FAA.”

The Senators are urging their colleagues to support S. 1387, introduced by Baucus and Transportation Committee Chairman Senator Jay John Rockefeller of West Virginia, which would allow FAA to continue operating uninterrupted while members continue to work toward a long-term reauthorization.  A competing proposal passed by the House would abruptly cut funding for Essential Air Service without the opportunity for public comment.

Alaska EAS Expiration Facts:

  • 79 FAA employees in Alaska would be furloughed.  Of greatest concern to the state is that these potential furloughed employees include the 18 employees from the FAA Alaska Region Airports Division, who are responsible for issuing Airport Improvement Program (AIP) grants and doing the environmental review function for expected AIP funded projects. 
  • Would lose approximately $70 million in construction funding.
  • The Deadhorse Airport Rehabilitation project is on a critical timeline that needs to be met this summer/fall or the project may be delayed by one to two years. The contractor needs a Notice to Proceed by August 15th to reasonably expect this work to be accomplished.  If they are not able to meet this schedule due to funding delays, there is a substantial risk the project will be delayed until 2013.  In order to meet the above schedule, they need the grant by early next week. All Grants are on hold pending today’s expiration date.

Additional fact on the FAA reauthorization issue:

  • The current FAA reauthorization expires at midnight today, July 22, 2011. 
  • Senators Baucus and Rockefeller introduced a clean FAA extension, S. 1387, Tuesday, July 19, 2011.
  • Congress has cleanly extended the FAA’s authorization 20 separate times without controversy.
  • In February, the U.S. Senate passed the most recent temporary reauthorization with full faith that conferees from the U.S. House would sit at the table to work through negotiations for a long term solution.
  • Months after passing its bill, the U.S. House has yet to appoint conferees for negotiations and Wednesday, July 20, 2011, passed a FAA extension that cuts EAS for 13 cities across the country.