Shuster promises open FAA bill process in 2015

Shuster promises open FAA bill process in 2015
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House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Rep. Bill ShusterWilliam (Bill) Franklin ShusterTrump talk riles advocates on both sides of gas tax GOP chairman: Trump infrastructure bill could be ready ‘closer to the summer’ Overnight Finance: Lawmakers, Treasury look to close tax law loopholes | Trump says he backs gas tax hike | Markets rise despite higher inflation | Fannie Mae asks for .7B MORE (R-Pa.) promised Tuesday to conduct an open process when the next Congress considers a bill to extend the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) next year. 

The FAA’s current appropriation measure, which was a $63 billion bill that was passed in 2012, is scheduled to expire in September 2015. 

Shuster said Tuesday during a hearing of the House Transportation Committee that he would craft a new funding bill for the aviation agency in the open. 

“It’s not going to be [Incoming Ranking Member Rep.]Peter DeFazio [D-Ore.] and I saying this is what we’re going to do,” Shuster said after hearing input from representatives of various portions of the U.S. aviation industry during a two-hour hearing. 

“I think if you look at over the 90’s and 2000’s, both President Clinton or President Bush both pretty much hatched it in the back room and then they got slaughtered when they took it to the floor of the Senate or the House because they didn’t  bring the stakeholders to the table,”  Shuster continued in reference to prior attempts to renew the FAA’s funding. 

The FAA current funding bill was approved after a multi-year fight in Congress that included 23 temporary extensions of a measure that was scheduled to expire in 2009 and a two-week partial shutdown of the agency in the summer of 2011. 

Lawmakers in both parties predicted there would be similar issues that could cause turbulence when Congress confronts aviation funding again in 2015. 

Democrat Rep. Michael CapuanoMichael (Mike) Everett CapuanoLawmakers scold railroads over delay in safety upgrades Feds: Amtrak engineer missed speed sign before train derailment Overnight Regulation: Consumer bureau chief launches review of agency | Dems search for 51st net neutrality vote | EPA official declines to testify at Superfund hearing | Cordray slams move to unwind payday lending rule MORE (D-Mass.) raised the specter of the FAA needing a funding boost as potentially increases its oversight in the coming years to include non-military drones that could be flying alongside  commercial airplanes as soon as next year

“I know at some point drones are going to be delivering my Chinese food,” Capuano said. “But I also know that [Air Line Pilots Association President] Captain [Lee] Moak and his people need to see those drones, and that's going to cost money too.” 

Congress mandated that the FAA has to issue a ruling on whether drones can fly safely alongside airplanes in U.S. airspace in the agency’s funding bill that is scheduled to expire next year. 

Republican Rep. John MicaJohn Luigi MicaGOP chairman slams ‘pitiful’ FEMA response in Louisiana 12-term GOP rep gets Dem challenger in Florida Lawmaker gives Metro head 'certificate of appreciation' for firing managers MORE (R-Fla.) expressed separate concern about the FAA’s progress implementing its proposed NextGen satellite navigation system. 

“There is no reason the United States should not have the most advanced air traffic control system in the world, and we do not have it. Maybe it’s going to take a disaster to wake people up to this, but it’s going to happen. We cannot backslide on NextGen,” said Mica, who was chairman of the Transportation Committee when it passed the 2012 FAA funding legislation.

The FAA has been planning for years to discard the World War II-era radar technology that’s been used to manage airplane traffic for generations.

The agency says the new system will ease congestion in the airspace around busy U.S. airports by streamlining the arrivals and departures of flights. It also argues that navigating flights more efficiently will have environmental benefits because airplanes will use less gas and produce less smog.

The catch is that the NextGen system is expected to cost about $40 billion to complete and an original deadline of a 2020 nationwide implementation is rapidly approaching. 

For his part, Shuster expressed optimism that all of the issues that were raised on Tuesday could be addressed in a new FAA bill if lawmakers follow a blueprint that was used to pass a port and water funding package earlier this year. 

“I think we have an opportunity here to do something different,” he said. “The process doesn’t work the way it should…the funding’s not there. If you think Congress in this environment with the deficits and the debt that we have is going to be able to fix this, we’re not going to be able to. We need to look at something different, not only from the process standpoint, but from the funding standpoint, a new way forward. And we need to do it together.”