The 21st Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) extension – H.R. 2553 – included two modest provisions to reduce Essential Air Service subsidies, including a provision eliminating subsidies for service to airports that are 90 miles or less from a large or medium hub airport. This provision also included authority for the Secretary of Transportation to waive the 90-mile requirement in instances where geographic characteristics make it difficult to access the large or medium hub airport.
Chairman Mica joined Senators Coburn, Paul, Lee and DeMint in sending this letter to DOT Secretary LaHood outlining the intent of the provision that the waiver authority be applied only when there is clear and substantial evidence of “geographic characteristics” resulting in “undue difficulty accessing” the nearest hub airport. The letter also requests a thorough written justification for any waivers to the 90-mile requirement granted by the Secretary.
After allowing a two-week partial shutdown of the FAA, Senate Democrat leaders passed H.R. 2553 on August 5, 2011 (the House passed the legislation on July 20th) after asking the Secretary to use the waiver authority to circumvent the extension’s EAS provisions.