Implementation of Legislative Categorical Exclusion for Environmental Review of Performance Based Navigation Procedures, 49141-49144 [2014-19691]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 79, No. 160 / Tuesday, August 19, 2014 / Notices DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION Federal Aviation Administration [Docket No. FAA–2014–0510] Implementation of Legislative Categorical Exclusion for Environmental Review of Performance Based Navigation Procedures Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), DOT. ACTION: Notice and request for public comment. AGENCY: The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is considering how to implement Section 213(c)(2) of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 which directs the FAA to issue and file a categorical exclusion for any navigation performance or other performance based navigation (PBN) procedure that would result in measureable reductions in fuel consumption, carbon dioxide emissions, and noise on a per flight basis as compared to aircraft operations that follow existing instrument flight rule procedures in the same airspace. In September 2012, the FAA tasked the NextGen Advisory Committee (NAC) for assistance, especially on how measurable reductions in noise on a per flight basis might be measured and assessed. The NAC developed a Net Noise Reduction Method which it recommended to the FAA. This notice provides the public an opportunity to comment on the Net Noise Reduction Method and possible variations of it to further inform the FAA’s consideration of interpretive guidance to implement Section 213(c)(2). DATES: Send comments on or before September 18, 2014. ADDRESSES: Send comments identified by ‘‘Docket Number FAA–2014–0510’’ using any of the following methods: • Federal eRulemaking Portal: Go to http://www.regulations.gov and follow the online instructions for sending your comments electronically. • Mail: Send comments to Docket Operations, M–30; U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE., Room W12–140, West Building Ground Floor, Washington, DC 20590–0001. • Hand Delivery or Courier: Take comments to Docket Operations in Room W12–140 of the West Building Ground Floor at 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE., Washington, DC, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays. • Fax: Fax comments to Docket Operations at 202–493–2251. tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with NOTICES SUMMARY: VerDate Mar<15>2010 16:30 Aug 18, 2014 Jkt 232001 Privacy: The FAA will post all comments it receives, without change, to http://www.regulations.gov, including any personal information the commenter provides. Using the search function of the docket Web site, anyone can find and read the electronic form of all comments received into any FAA docket, including the name of the individual sending the comment (or signing the comment for an association, business, labor union, etc.). DOT’s complete Privacy Act Statement can be found in the Federal Register published on April 11, 2000 (65 FR 19477–19478), as well as at http://DocketsInfo.dot.gov. Docket: Background documents or comments received may be read at http://www.regulations.gov at any time. Follow the online instructions for accessing the docket or go to the Docket Operations in Room W12–140 of the West Building Ground Floor at 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE., Washington, DC, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Lynne S. Pickard, Senior Advisor for Environmental Policy, Office of Environment and Energy (AEE–6), Federal Aviation Administration, 800 Independence Avenue SW., Washington, DC 20591; telephone (202) 267–3577; email lynne.pickard@faa.gov. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Background The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) establishes a broad national policy to protect the quality of the human environment and to ensure that environmental considerations are given careful attention and appropriate weight in decisions of the Federal Government. Regulations promulgated by the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) (40 CFR parts 1500–1508) to implement NEPA establish three levels of environmental review for federal actions. An environmental impact statement (EIS) is the detailed written statement as required by section 102(2)(C) of NEPA, and is prepared for those actions when one or more environmental impacts are potentially significant and mitigation measures cannot reduce the impact(s) below significant levels. 40 CFR 1508.11. An environmental assessment (EA) is a more concise document that provides a basis for determining whether to prepare an environmental impact statement or a finding of no significant impact. 40 CFR 1508.9. A categorical exclusion (CATEX) is used for actions which do not individually or cumulatively have a significant effect on the human environment. 40 CFR 1508.4. PO 00000 Frm 00094 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 49141 A CATEX is not an exemption or waiver of NEPA review; it is a level of NEPA review. CEQ regulations require agency procedures to identify classes of actions which normally require an EIS or an EA, as well as those actions which normally do not require either an EIS or an EA (i.e., a CATEX). 40 CFR 1507.3(b). In addition to identifying actions that normally are CATEXed, an agency’s procedures must also provide for extraordinary circumstances in which a normally excluded action may have a significant environmental effect which would preclude the use of a CATEX. 40 CFR 1508.4. The FAA has adopted policy and procedures for compliance with NEPA and CEQ’s implementing regulations in Order 1050.1E, Environmental Impacts: Policies and Procedures, dated June 8, 2004 (as updated by Change 1, dated March 20, 2006). Order 1050.1E lists FAA actions subject to a CATEX in accordance with CEQ regulations, including CATEXes for FAA actions involving establishment, modification, or application of airspace and air traffic procedures. In addition, in the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (Pub. L. 112–95), Congress created two legislative CATEXes for certain air traffic procedures being implemented as part of the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen).1 Section 213(c) of this Act provides: (c) COORDINATED AND EXPEDITED REVIEW. (1) In General—Navigation performance and area navigation procedures developed, certified, published, or implemented under this section shall be presumed to be covered by a categorical exclusion (as defined in section 1508.4 of title 40, Code of Federal Regulations) under chapter 3 of FAA Order 1050.1E unless the Administrator determines that extraordinary circumstances exist with respect to the procedure. (2) NextGen Procedures.—Any navigation performance or other performance based navigation procedure developed, certified, published, or implemented that, in the determination of the Administrator, would result in measurable reductions in fuel consumption, carbon dioxide emissions, and noise, on a per flight basis, as compared to aircraft operations that follow existing instrument flight rules procedures in the same airspace, shall be presumed to have no significant affect [sic] on the quality of the human environment and the Administrator shall issue and file a categorical exclusion for the new procedure. 1 The Next Generation Air Transportation System, referred to as NextGen, is a term used to describe the ongoing transformation of the National Airspace System (NAS). At its most basic level, NextGen represents an evolution from a ground-based system of air traffic control to a satellite-based system of air traffic management. E:\FR\FM\19AUN1.SGM 19AUN1 tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with NOTICES 49142 Federal Register / Vol. 79, No. 160 / Tuesday, August 19, 2014 / Notices These two new legislative CATEXes have been included in the FAA’s proposed Order 1050.1F, Environmental Impact: Policies and Procedures, 78 FR 49596 (Aug. 14, 2013). The FAA issued implementing guidance on the CATEX described in Section 213(c)(1) on December 6, 2012. Technical and legal issues have hindered implementing guidance on the CATEX in Section 213(c)(2) because none of the FAA’s current noise methodologies or methodologies that the FAA has explored measure noise on a per flight basis. The CATEX in Section 213(c)(2) has some unique characteristics. It presumes no significant effect on the quality of the human environment based on a review of three factors—fuel consumption, carbon dioxide emissions, and noise. To apply this CATEX, the FAA is directed to determine that all three factors would be measurably reduced when compared to what is generated by existing instrument flight rules procedures, instead of determining that there would be no potential for significant impacts. It bases the determination of measurable reductions on a per flight basis. It does not provide for extraordinary circumstances to override the CATEX. Section 213(c)(2) states that this CATEX applies to ‘‘any navigation performance or other performance based navigation procedure. . . .’’ The FAA interprets this to mean NextGen performance based navigation (PBN) procedures based on the terminology and because the provision is entitled ‘‘NextGen Procedures’’ and is within a more comprehensive Section 213 that is entitled ‘‘Acceleration of NextGen Technologies’’. PBN procedures are flight procedures that rely on satellitebased navigation, i.e. Area Navigation (RNAV) and Required Navigation Performance (RNP). Accordingly, the FAA finds that the use of this CATEX is limited to PBN procedures. The CATEX cannot be used for conventional procedures (flight procedures that rely on ground-based navigational aids) or for projects involving a mix of conventional and PBN procedures, which is commonly the case for sizeable projects such as an Optimization of the Airspace and Procedures in the Metroplex (Metroplex). In addition, for projects involving only PBN procedures, 95 percent or more already meet the conditions of existing FAA CATEXes. Under these circumstances, the Section 213(c)(2) CATEX would be expected to be used infrequently. It could expedite VerDate Mar<15>2010 16:30 Aug 18, 2014 Jkt 232001 review of a PBN-only project that would otherwise be subject to an EA or possibly an EIS due to a high level of environmental controversy or potential environmental impacts that would preclude the use of another existing CATEX. The statutory language of Section 213(c)(2) states that the CATEX cannot be implemented unless the FAA can determine that there are measurable reductions of fuel consumption, carbon dioxide emissions, and noise on a per flight basis. While measurable reductions in fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions can be determined on a per flight basis using current methodologies, aircraft noise poses unique challenges for such a determination. Noise depends not only on the varying noise levels of an aircraft as it flies, but also on the position of the aircraft in relation to noise sensitive receivers on the ground. Noise tends to increase at some locations and decrease at other locations as PBN procedures shift and concentrate flight tracks. Total noise in an area of airspace cannot be calculated by adding up the noise levels at various locations on the ground, and noise levels cannot be divided by the number of aircraft to produce noise per flight. The FAA could not find a technically sound way to make the noise determination required by the statute based on an analysis of noise methodologies. In September 2012, the FAA tasked the NextGen Advisory Committee (NAC) for assistance in further exploring how to make use of this legislative CATEX. The NAC, established September 23, 2010, is a 28-member Federal advisory committee formed to provide advice on policy-level issues facing the aviation community in developing and implementing NextGen. In response to FAA’s request, the NAC created a Task Group of diverse stakeholders representing airlines, airports, manufacturers, aviation associations, consultants, and community interests. The Task Group agreed with the FAA’s technical analysis of current methodologies and went on to develop a Net Noise Reduction Method. The Net Noise Reduction Method received unanimous support from Task Group members and was recommended to FAA by the NAC on June 4, 2013.2 Following extensive evaluation of the NAC’s recommended Net Noise 2 http://www.rtca.org/Files/Miscellaneous %20Files/CatEx2%20Report%20NAC%20June %202013final.pdf. PO 00000 Frm 00095 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 Reduction Method, the FAA has decided to solicit public comment to further inform the FAA’s consideration of interpretive guidance to implement Section 213(c)(2) using the Net Noise Reduction Method and possible variations on it. There are reasons for seeking public review in addition to the NAC’s public forum. One reason is that this CATEX has some unique statutory requirements that have presented challenges to the FAA in determining how to implement the CATEX. In addition, the Net Noise Reduction Method would introduce a new method for assessing noise for certain proposed PBN procedures under NEPA that is different in a number of respects from current noise analysis methodologies. The NAC has also suggested an additional test, at the FAA’s discretion, involving a determination of significant noise impact which is further explained below; and the FAA would like input from the public on the use of such a test. Finally, there appears to be substantial public interest and concern regarding this CATEX, as reflected in numerous comments submitted on the inclusion of this CATEX in the FAA’s proposed Order 1050.1F. Description of Net Noise Reduction Method The Net Noise Reduction Method provides for the computation of the number of people who would experience a reduction in noise and the number of people who would experience an increase in noise with a proposed PBN procedure as compared with the existing instrument procedure, at noise levels of DNL 45 dB and higher.3 If the overall number of people is reduced, the NAC Task Group viewed this result as reasonably demonstrating noise reduction as intended by the Section 213(c)(2) legislative CATEX; therefore, the noise reduction determination required for the CATEX could be made. The example in Table 1 below illustrates the result (i.e., a decrease in noise for 1,431,221 people compared to an increase for 1,018,055 people) that could support the CATEX noise determination using the Net Noise Reduction Method. 3 DNL, the Day-Night Average Sound Level, is the FAA’s primary metric for assessing aircraft noise. DNL accounts for the noise levels of individual aircraft events, the number of times those events occur, and the period of day/night in which they occur. E:\FR\FM\19AUN1.SGM 19AUN1 49143 Federal Register / Vol. 79, No. 160 / Tuesday, August 19, 2014 / Notices TABLE 1—NUMBER OF PEOPLE EXPOSED TO DNL LEVEL PBN PROCEDURES VS EXISTING PROCEDURES 4 DNL noise exposure band Number of people decreases Number of people increases Number of people unchanged 45–60 ................................................................................................................... 60–65 ................................................................................................................... Above 65 .............................................................................................................. 1,405,952 15,531 9,738 961,579 45,401 11,075 445,074 6,792 3,964 Total People ................................................................................................. 1,431,221 1,018,055 455,830 The NAC Task Group additionally observed that if there would be a net increase in people exposed to noise within the DNL 65 dB noise exposure band and the amount of the noise increase would be described as significant under FAA’s NEPA criteria,5 community opposition could delay implementation and negate Congressional intent of expedited PBN procedures. Accordingly, the NAC Task Group indicated that in such a case, the FAA might apply its significant noise impact threshold as a second test in addition to the determination of net reduction in the number of people exposed to noise. If the noise increase would not exceed DNL 1.5 dB in the DNL 65 dB band and there would be an overall net reduction in the number of people exposed to noise across all noise exposure bands, the NAC Task Group concluded that this would appear to further confirm that application of the CATEX is reasonable. If the increase in noise in the DNL 65 dB band was DNL 1.5 or greater, the FAA could decide not to use the CATEX. FAA Considerations Involving the Use of the Proposed Net Noise Reduction Method The FAA’s first consideration is the extent to which the Net Noise Reduction Method meets the statutory requirement for the FAA to determine that proposed PBN procedures would result in measurable reductions in noise on a per flight basis compared to aircraft operations following existing instrument flight rules procedures. As with current noise analysis methodologies, the Net Noise Reduction Method does not produce a quantity of noise on a per flights basis. However, the NAC Task Group has pointed out that the Conference Report describing the final legislative language for the Section 213(c)(2) CATEX expresses the Congressional intent to determine measurable reductions on an average per flight basis. The Task Group confirmed with Congressional staff that this language allows for averaging noise impact on a representative basis for flights using a particular procedure. The FAA is considering the extent to which the Net Noise Reduction Method should be relied on to determine measurable reductions in noise on a per flight basis under the statute and in light of the accompanying Conference Report, and invites public views on this aspect of the methodology. Another consideration is the extent to which the Net Noise Reduction Method’s reliance on a net reduction in the number of people exposed to noise constitutes a net reduction in noise, since the two reductions are not the same. An increase in the number of people exposed to noise does not convey the amount of the noise increase, i.e. whether it is a small or a large increase in noise. Similarly, a decrease in the number of people does not convey the amount of the noise decrease. If people receiving a noise decrease outnumber the people receiving an increase, but the amount of the noise decrease is small compared to the noise increase, is it appropriate for the FAA to determine that there is a measurable reduction in noise? The FAA has explored this issue by using the same source data used by the NAC in its example (see Table 1), but calculating differences in terms of noise, i.e., the average change in the DNL at thousands of locations within the area of airspace. The FAA did this calculation in two ways—(1) a straightforward average of all locations, and (2) a population weighted average. The population-weighted average was used because where people reside in relation to locations on the ground that receive more or less noise is relevant to assessing noise impact. The FAA’s results, expressed in changes in noise using DNL, are shown below in Table 2. In both cases, the total average change in noise is a decrease. Therefore, if the FAA used a Net Noise Reduction Method, but relied on noise changes rather than population changes, the results in this example could support the use of the legislative CATEX. The FAA is giving further consideration to which approach (i.e., population change, noise change, population weighted noise change) best fulfills the letter and intent of the statute. The FAA is also considering whether one approach offers greater public understanding, and invites comments on these different approaches to a net noise reduction methodology. TABLE 2—AVERAGE CHANGES IN DNL LEVEL PBN PROCEDURES VS EXISTING PROCEDURES Straight average change in DNL 45–60 ....................................................................................... 60–65 ....................................................................................... Above 65 .................................................................................. tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with NOTICES DNL noise exposure band ¥0.3 DNL ................................................................................ 0 ............................................................................................... 0 ............................................................................................... 4 The example in Table 1 is used by the NAC based on noise and population data from an EA for procedural changes at Chicago Midway International Airport; however, in its June 2013 published report, the NAC mixed this example with another example in reporting the number of people in the DNL 60–65 noise exposure band, which also resulted in inaccuracies in the total number of VerDate Mar<15>2010 16:30 Aug 18, 2014 Jkt 232001 people. The FAA used NAC source data for the example in this notice. The Midway EA may be viewed at http://www.flychicago.com/midway/en/ AboutUs/NoiseManagement/AirportNoise/AirportNoise.aspx#FinalAssess. The NAC also used an example based on the Greener Skies EA for Seattle Tacoma International Airport, which is not repeated in this notice. PO 00000 Frm 00096 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 Population weighted average change in DNL ¥0.2 DNL 0 +0.1 5 The FAA’s threshold for a significant noise impact under NEPA is an increase of DNL 1.5 dB or more for a noise sensitive area that is exposed to noise at or above the DNL 65 dB noise exposure level, or that will be exposed at or above this level due to a 1.5 dB or greater increase, when compared to the no action alternative for the same timeframe. E:\FR\FM\19AUN1.SGM 19AUN1 49144 Federal Register / Vol. 79, No. 160 / Tuesday, August 19, 2014 / Notices TABLE 2—AVERAGE CHANGES IN DNL LEVEL PBN PROCEDURES VS EXISTING PROCEDURES—Continued DNL noise exposure band Straight average change in DNL tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Total Change .................................................................... In the examples in both Tables 1 and 2, the greatest reductions in either noise or the population exposed to noise are at the DNL 45–60 dB level, which is the lowest noise level that the FAA normally evaluates for differences in noise that may result from certain proposed changes in procedures. In Table 1, there are increases in the number of people in higher noise exposure bands of DNL 60–65 dB and above DNL 65 dB. In Table 2, the average DNL decrease occurs in the lowest noise exposure band, while the average DNL change in the higher noise exposure bands is either zero or a slight increase using the population weighted average approach. The use of the total of all three DNL noise exposure bands to determine a net noise reduction gives equal weight to lower and higher levels of noise, while the FAA’s practice is to give greater weight to higher noise levels which people find more annoying, especially noise levels above DNL 65 dB. Accordingly, the FAA is considering the extent to which a mix of noise increases and decreases in different noise exposure bands supports a determination of noise reduction, especially when reductions at lower DNL noise levels would outweigh increases at higher noise levels. A potential alternative approach could be to require reductions in all three DNL noise exposure bands to support a noise reduction determination for use of the CATEX. This alternative approach would be expected to reduce the use of the CATEX, and it appears less consistent with the statutory provision to compare procedures ‘‘in the same airspace.’’ The FAA invites comments on this aspect of the Net Noise Reduction Method. Finally, if the FAA decides to use the Net Noise Reduction Method or a variation of it, the FAA must also decide if and how to employ its significant noise impact threshold. The decision that is the most consistent with the statutory language would be not to employ the threshold at all. The statutory text is prescriptive in that a PBN procedure that meets the test for measurable reductions ‘‘shall be presumed to have no significant affect [sic] on the quality of the human environment and the Administrator VerDate Mar<15>2010 16:30 Aug 18, 2014 Jkt 232001 ¥0.3 DNL ................................................................................ shall issue and file a categorical exclusion for the new procedure.’’ Unlike CATEXes that are administratively established under CEQ regulations, this legislative CATEX is not subject to extraordinary circumstances; therefore, a CATEX determination is not precluded by potential environmental impacts that are beyond the specific parameters in the statutory text (i.e, measureable reductions in fuel consumption, carbon dioxide emissions, and noise on a per flight basis). As the FAA considers the viability of employing the significant noise impact threshold in conjunction with this CATEX, the FAA is soliciting public views on whether a threshold test may and should be used. Further, if a significant noise impact threshold test is used, should it be used only when there is a net increase in people exposed at DNL 65 dB and above, as the NAC Task Group has suggested, or should it be more broadly used to check for significant noise impact when there is any increase in the number of people exposed to noise at DNL 65 dB and above—even if there is a net population benefit at that level? Solicitation of Public Comment The FAA invites public comment on the entirety of the prospective implementation of the CATEX in Section 213(c)(2) of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, and particularly invites comment on the following specific aspects of the Net Noise Reduction Method which are under consideration by the FAA as described in this notice: 1. Extent to which the FAA should rely on the Net Noise Reduction Method to determine measurable reductions in noise on a per flight basis. 2. Appropriateness of determining that there is a measurable reduction in noise if people receiving a noise decrease outnumber the people receiving an increase, but the noise decrease is small compared to the noise increase. 3. Different approaches to a net noise reduction methodology (i.e., population change, noise change, population weighted noise change), and whether the selection of one approach over another is preferred and increases public understanding. PO 00000 Frm 00097 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 Population weighted average change in DNL ¥0.2 DNL 4. Extent to which a mix of noise increases and decreases could support a determination of measurable noise reduction, especially when reductions at lower noise levels outweigh increases at higher noise levels, and whether an alternative approach that would require reductions in all three noise exposure bands to support the use of the CATEX should be used. 5. Whether a significant noise impact threshold test should be used; and if so, if it should be used only when there is a net increase in people exposed to noise at DNL 65 dB and above, or if it should be used when there is any increase in the number of people exposed to noise at DNL 65 dB and above—even if there is a net population benefit at that level. Issued in Washington, DC, on August 13, 2014. Lourdes Q. Maurice, Executive Director, Office of Environment and Energy, Federal Aviation Administration. [FR Doc. 2014–19691 Filed 8–18–14; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4910–13–P DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION Federal Aviation Administration Sixth Meeting: RTCA Tactical Operations Committee (TOC) Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). ACTION: Sixth Meeting Notice of RTCA Tactical Operations Committee. AGENCY: The FAA is issuing this notice to advise the public of the sixth meeting of the RTCA Tactical Operations Committee. DATES: The meeting will be held September 3, 2014 from 10:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m. ADDRESSES: The meeting will be held at RTCA, Inc., 1150 18th Street NW., Suite 910, Washington, DC 20036. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: The RTCA Secretariat, 1150 18th Street NW., Suite 910, Washington, DC 20036, or by telephone at (202) 833–9339, fax at (202) 833–9434, or Web site at http:// www.rtca.org or Trin Mitra, TOC Secretary, tmitra@rtca.org, 202–330– 0655. SUMMARY: E:\FR\FM\19AUN1.SGM 19AUN1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 160 (Tuesday, August 19, 2014)]
[Notices]
[Pages 49141-49144]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-19691]



[[Page 49141]]

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DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

Federal Aviation Administration

[Docket No. FAA-2014-0510]


Implementation of Legislative Categorical Exclusion for 
Environmental Review of Performance Based Navigation Procedures

AGENCY: Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), DOT.

ACTION: Notice and request for public comment.

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SUMMARY: The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is considering how 
to implement Section 213(c)(2) of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act 
of 2012 which directs the FAA to issue and file a categorical exclusion 
for any navigation performance or other performance based navigation 
(PBN) procedure that would result in measureable reductions in fuel 
consumption, carbon dioxide emissions, and noise on a per flight basis 
as compared to aircraft operations that follow existing instrument 
flight rule procedures in the same airspace. In September 2012, the FAA 
tasked the NextGen Advisory Committee (NAC) for assistance, especially 
on how measurable reductions in noise on a per flight basis might be 
measured and assessed. The NAC developed a Net Noise Reduction Method 
which it recommended to the FAA. This notice provides the public an 
opportunity to comment on the Net Noise Reduction Method and possible 
variations of it to further inform the FAA's consideration of 
interpretive guidance to implement Section 213(c)(2).

DATES: Send comments on or before September 18, 2014.

ADDRESSES: Send comments identified by ``Docket Number FAA-2014-0510'' 
using any of the following methods:
     Federal eRulemaking Portal: Go to http://www.regulations.gov and follow the online instructions for sending your 
comments electronically.
     Mail: Send comments to Docket Operations, M-30; U.S. 
Department of Transportation (DOT), 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE., Room 
W12-140, West Building Ground Floor, Washington, DC 20590-0001.
     Hand Delivery or Courier: Take comments to Docket 
Operations in Room W12-140 of the West Building Ground Floor at 1200 
New Jersey Avenue SE., Washington, DC, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., 
Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays.
     Fax: Fax comments to Docket Operations at 202-493-2251.
    Privacy: The FAA will post all comments it receives, without 
change, to http://www.regulations.gov, including any personal 
information the commenter provides. Using the search function of the 
docket Web site, anyone can find and read the electronic form of all 
comments received into any FAA docket, including the name of the 
individual sending the comment (or signing the comment for an 
association, business, labor union, etc.). DOT's complete Privacy Act 
Statement can be found in the Federal Register published on April 11, 
2000 (65 FR 19477-19478), as well as at http://DocketsInfo.dot.gov.
    Docket: Background documents or comments received may be read at 
http://www.regulations.gov at any time. Follow the online instructions 
for accessing the docket or go to the Docket Operations in Room W12-140 
of the West Building Ground Floor at 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE., 
Washington, DC, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, 
except Federal holidays.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Lynne S. Pickard, Senior Advisor for 
Environmental Policy, Office of Environment and Energy (AEE-6), Federal 
Aviation Administration, 800 Independence Avenue SW., Washington, DC 
20591; telephone (202) 267-3577; email lynne.pickard@faa.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) establishes a broad 
national policy to protect the quality of the human environment and to 
ensure that environmental considerations are given careful attention 
and appropriate weight in decisions of the Federal Government. 
Regulations promulgated by the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) 
(40 CFR parts 1500-1508) to implement NEPA establish three levels of 
environmental review for federal actions. An environmental impact 
statement (EIS) is the detailed written statement as required by 
section 102(2)(C) of NEPA, and is prepared for those actions when one 
or more environmental impacts are potentially significant and 
mitigation measures cannot reduce the impact(s) below significant 
levels. 40 CFR 1508.11. An environmental assessment (EA) is a more 
concise document that provides a basis for determining whether to 
prepare an environmental impact statement or a finding of no 
significant impact. 40 CFR 1508.9. A categorical exclusion (CATEX) is 
used for actions which do not individually or cumulatively have a 
significant effect on the human environment. 40 CFR 1508.4. A CATEX is 
not an exemption or waiver of NEPA review; it is a level of NEPA 
review.
    CEQ regulations require agency procedures to identify classes of 
actions which normally require an EIS or an EA, as well as those 
actions which normally do not require either an EIS or an EA (i.e., a 
CATEX). 40 CFR 1507.3(b). In addition to identifying actions that 
normally are CATEXed, an agency's procedures must also provide for 
extraordinary circumstances in which a normally excluded action may 
have a significant environmental effect which would preclude the use of 
a CATEX. 40 CFR 1508.4.
    The FAA has adopted policy and procedures for compliance with NEPA 
and CEQ's implementing regulations in Order 1050.1E, Environmental 
Impacts: Policies and Procedures, dated June 8, 2004 (as updated by 
Change 1, dated March 20, 2006). Order 1050.1E lists FAA actions 
subject to a CATEX in accordance with CEQ regulations, including 
CATEXes for FAA actions involving establishment, modification, or 
application of airspace and air traffic procedures. In addition, in the 
FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (Pub. L. 112-95), Congress 
created two legislative CATEXes for certain air traffic procedures 
being implemented as part of the Next Generation Air Transportation 
System (NextGen).\1\ Section 213(c) of this Act provides:

    \1\ The Next Generation Air Transportation System, referred to 
as NextGen, is a term used to describe the ongoing transformation of 
the National Airspace System (NAS). At its most basic level, NextGen 
represents an evolution from a ground-based system of air traffic 
control to a satellite-based system of air traffic management.
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(c) COORDINATED AND EXPEDITED REVIEW.

    (1) In General--Navigation performance and area navigation 
procedures developed, certified, published, or implemented under 
this section shall be presumed to be covered by a categorical 
exclusion (as defined in section 1508.4 of title 40, Code of Federal 
Regulations) under chapter 3 of FAA Order 1050.1E unless the 
Administrator determines that extraordinary circumstances exist with 
respect to the procedure.
    (2) NextGen Procedures.--Any navigation performance or other 
performance based navigation procedure developed, certified, 
published, or implemented that, in the determination of the 
Administrator, would result in measurable reductions in fuel 
consumption, carbon dioxide emissions, and noise, on a per flight 
basis, as compared to aircraft operations that follow existing 
instrument flight rules procedures in the same airspace, shall be 
presumed to have no significant affect [sic] on the quality of the 
human environment and the Administrator shall issue and file a 
categorical exclusion for the new procedure.


[[Page 49142]]


    These two new legislative CATEXes have been included in the FAA's 
proposed Order 1050.1F, Environmental Impact: Policies and Procedures, 
78 FR 49596 (Aug. 14, 2013). The FAA issued implementing guidance on 
the CATEX described in Section 213(c)(1) on December 6, 2012. Technical 
and legal issues have hindered implementing guidance on the CATEX in 
Section 213(c)(2) because none of the FAA's current noise methodologies 
or methodologies that the FAA has explored measure noise on a per 
flight basis.
    The CATEX in Section 213(c)(2) has some unique characteristics. It 
presumes no significant effect on the quality of the human environment 
based on a review of three factors--fuel consumption, carbon dioxide 
emissions, and noise. To apply this CATEX, the FAA is directed to 
determine that all three factors would be measurably reduced when 
compared to what is generated by existing instrument flight rules 
procedures, instead of determining that there would be no potential for 
significant impacts. It bases the determination of measurable 
reductions on a per flight basis. It does not provide for extraordinary 
circumstances to override the CATEX.
    Section 213(c)(2) states that this CATEX applies to ``any 
navigation performance or other performance based navigation procedure. 
. . .'' The FAA interprets this to mean NextGen performance based 
navigation (PBN) procedures based on the terminology and because the 
provision is entitled ``NextGen Procedures'' and is within a more 
comprehensive Section 213 that is entitled ``Acceleration of NextGen 
Technologies''. PBN procedures are flight procedures that rely on 
satellite-based navigation, i.e. Area Navigation (RNAV) and Required 
Navigation Performance (RNP). Accordingly, the FAA finds that the use 
of this CATEX is limited to PBN procedures. The CATEX cannot be used 
for conventional procedures (flight procedures that rely on ground-
based navigational aids) or for projects involving a mix of 
conventional and PBN procedures, which is commonly the case for 
sizeable projects such as an Optimization of the Airspace and 
Procedures in the Metroplex (Metroplex). In addition, for projects 
involving only PBN procedures, 95 percent or more already meet the 
conditions of existing FAA CATEXes. Under these circumstances, the 
Section 213(c)(2) CATEX would be expected to be used infrequently. It 
could expedite review of a PBN-only project that would otherwise be 
subject to an EA or possibly an EIS due to a high level of 
environmental controversy or potential environmental impacts that would 
preclude the use of another existing CATEX.
    The statutory language of Section 213(c)(2) states that the CATEX 
cannot be implemented unless the FAA can determine that there are 
measurable reductions of fuel consumption, carbon dioxide emissions, 
and noise on a per flight basis. While measurable reductions in fuel 
consumption and carbon dioxide emissions can be determined on a per 
flight basis using current methodologies, aircraft noise poses unique 
challenges for such a determination. Noise depends not only on the 
varying noise levels of an aircraft as it flies, but also on the 
position of the aircraft in relation to noise sensitive receivers on 
the ground. Noise tends to increase at some locations and decrease at 
other locations as PBN procedures shift and concentrate flight tracks. 
Total noise in an area of airspace cannot be calculated by adding up 
the noise levels at various locations on the ground, and noise levels 
cannot be divided by the number of aircraft to produce noise per 
flight. The FAA could not find a technically sound way to make the 
noise determination required by the statute based on an analysis of 
noise methodologies.
    In September 2012, the FAA tasked the NextGen Advisory Committee 
(NAC) for assistance in further exploring how to make use of this 
legislative CATEX. The NAC, established September 23, 2010, is a 28-
member Federal advisory committee formed to provide advice on policy-
level issues facing the aviation community in developing and 
implementing NextGen. In response to FAA's request, the NAC created a 
Task Group of diverse stakeholders representing airlines, airports, 
manufacturers, aviation associations, consultants, and community 
interests. The Task Group agreed with the FAA's technical analysis of 
current methodologies and went on to develop a Net Noise Reduction 
Method. The Net Noise Reduction Method received unanimous support from 
Task Group members and was recommended to FAA by the NAC on June 4, 
2013.\2\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \2\ http://www.rtca.org/Files/Miscellaneous%20Files/CatEx2%20Report%20NAC%20June%202013final.pdf.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Following extensive evaluation of the NAC's recommended Net Noise 
Reduction Method, the FAA has decided to solicit public comment to 
further inform the FAA's consideration of interpretive guidance to 
implement Section 213(c)(2) using the Net Noise Reduction Method and 
possible variations on it. There are reasons for seeking public review 
in addition to the NAC's public forum. One reason is that this CATEX 
has some unique statutory requirements that have presented challenges 
to the FAA in determining how to implement the CATEX. In addition, the 
Net Noise Reduction Method would introduce a new method for assessing 
noise for certain proposed PBN procedures under NEPA that is different 
in a number of respects from current noise analysis methodologies. The 
NAC has also suggested an additional test, at the FAA's discretion, 
involving a determination of significant noise impact which is further 
explained below; and the FAA would like input from the public on the 
use of such a test. Finally, there appears to be substantial public 
interest and concern regarding this CATEX, as reflected in numerous 
comments submitted on the inclusion of this CATEX in the FAA's proposed 
Order 1050.1F.

Description of Net Noise Reduction Method

    The Net Noise Reduction Method provides for the computation of the 
number of people who would experience a reduction in noise and the 
number of people who would experience an increase in noise with a 
proposed PBN procedure as compared with the existing instrument 
procedure, at noise levels of DNL 45 dB and higher.\3\ If the overall 
number of people is reduced, the NAC Task Group viewed this result as 
reasonably demonstrating noise reduction as intended by the Section 
213(c)(2) legislative CATEX; therefore, the noise reduction 
determination required for the CATEX could be made. The example in 
Table 1 below illustrates the result (i.e., a decrease in noise for 
1,431,221 people compared to an increase for 1,018,055 people) that 
could support the CATEX noise determination using the Net Noise 
Reduction Method.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \3\ DNL, the Day-Night Average Sound Level, is the FAA's primary 
metric for assessing aircraft noise. DNL accounts for the noise 
levels of individual aircraft events, the number of times those 
events occur, and the period of day/night in which they occur.

[[Page 49143]]



            Table 1--Number of People Exposed to DNL Level PBN Procedures vs Existing Procedures \4\
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                       Number of people    Number of people    Number of people
               DNL noise exposure band                     decreases           increases           unchanged
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
45-60...............................................           1,405,952             961,579             445,074
60-65...............................................              15,531              45,401               6,792
Above 65............................................               9,738              11,075               3,964
                                                     -----------------------------------------------------------
    Total People....................................           1,431,221           1,018,055             455,830
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The NAC Task Group additionally observed that if there would be a 
net increase in people exposed to noise within the DNL 65 dB noise 
exposure band and the amount of the noise increase would be described 
as significant under FAA's NEPA criteria,\5\ community opposition could 
delay implementation and negate Congressional intent of expedited PBN 
procedures. Accordingly, the NAC Task Group indicated that in such a 
case, the FAA might apply its significant noise impact threshold as a 
second test in addition to the determination of net reduction in the 
number of people exposed to noise. If the noise increase would not 
exceed DNL 1.5 dB in the DNL 65 dB band and there would be an overall 
net reduction in the number of people exposed to noise across all noise 
exposure bands, the NAC Task Group concluded that this would appear to 
further confirm that application of the CATEX is reasonable. If the 
increase in noise in the DNL 65 dB band was DNL 1.5 or greater, the FAA 
could decide not to use the CATEX.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \4\ The example in Table 1 is used by the NAC based on noise and 
population data from an EA for procedural changes at Chicago Midway 
International Airport; however, in its June 2013 published report, 
the NAC mixed this example with another example in reporting the 
number of people in the DNL 60-65 noise exposure band, which also 
resulted in inaccuracies in the total number of people. The FAA used 
NAC source data for the example in this notice. The Midway EA may be 
viewed at http://www.flychicago.com/midway/en/AboutUs/NoiseManagement/AirportNoise/Airport-Noise.aspx#FinalAssess. The NAC 
also used an example based on the Greener Skies EA for Seattle 
Tacoma International Airport, which is not repeated in this notice.
    \5\ The FAA's threshold for a significant noise impact under 
NEPA is an increase of DNL 1.5 dB or more for a noise sensitive area 
that is exposed to noise at or above the DNL 65 dB noise exposure 
level, or that will be exposed at or above this level due to a 1.5 
dB or greater increase, when compared to the no action alternative 
for the same timeframe.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

FAA Considerations Involving the Use of the Proposed Net Noise 
Reduction Method

    The FAA's first consideration is the extent to which the Net Noise 
Reduction Method meets the statutory requirement for the FAA to 
determine that proposed PBN procedures would result in measurable 
reductions in noise on a per flight basis compared to aircraft 
operations following existing instrument flight rules procedures. As 
with current noise analysis methodologies, the Net Noise Reduction 
Method does not produce a quantity of noise on a per flights basis. 
However, the NAC Task Group has pointed out that the Conference Report 
describing the final legislative language for the Section 213(c)(2) 
CATEX expresses the Congressional intent to determine measurable 
reductions on an average per flight basis. The Task Group confirmed 
with Congressional staff that this language allows for averaging noise 
impact on a representative basis for flights using a particular 
procedure. The FAA is considering the extent to which the Net Noise 
Reduction Method should be relied on to determine measurable reductions 
in noise on a per flight basis under the statute and in light of the 
accompanying Conference Report, and invites public views on this aspect 
of the methodology.
    Another consideration is the extent to which the Net Noise 
Reduction Method's reliance on a net reduction in the number of people 
exposed to noise constitutes a net reduction in noise, since the two 
reductions are not the same. An increase in the number of people 
exposed to noise does not convey the amount of the noise increase, i.e. 
whether it is a small or a large increase in noise. Similarly, a 
decrease in the number of people does not convey the amount of the 
noise decrease. If people receiving a noise decrease outnumber the 
people receiving an increase, but the amount of the noise decrease is 
small compared to the noise increase, is it appropriate for the FAA to 
determine that there is a measurable reduction in noise?
    The FAA has explored this issue by using the same source data used 
by the NAC in its example (see Table 1), but calculating differences in 
terms of noise, i.e., the average change in the DNL at thousands of 
locations within the area of airspace. The FAA did this calculation in 
two ways--(1) a straightforward average of all locations, and (2) a 
population weighted average. The population-weighted average was used 
because where people reside in relation to locations on the ground that 
receive more or less noise is relevant to assessing noise impact. The 
FAA's results, expressed in changes in noise using DNL, are shown below 
in Table 2. In both cases, the total average change in noise is a 
decrease. Therefore, if the FAA used a Net Noise Reduction Method, but 
relied on noise changes rather than population changes, the results in 
this example could support the use of the legislative CATEX. The FAA is 
giving further consideration to which approach (i.e., population 
change, noise change, population weighted noise change) best fulfills 
the letter and intent of the statute. The FAA is also considering 
whether one approach offers greater public understanding, and invites 
comments on these different approaches to a net noise reduction 
methodology.

    Table 2--Average Changes in DNL Level PBN Procedures vs Existing
                               Procedures
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                Straight average    Population weighted
    DNL noise exposure band       change in DNL    average change in DNL
------------------------------------------------------------------------
45-60.........................  -0.3 DNL........  -0.2 DNL
60-65.........................  0...............  0
Above 65......................  0...............  +0.1
                               -----------------------------------------

[[Page 49144]]

 
    Total Change..............  -0.3 DNL........  -0.2 DNL
------------------------------------------------------------------------

    In the examples in both Tables 1 and 2, the greatest reductions in 
either noise or the population exposed to noise are at the DNL 45-60 dB 
level, which is the lowest noise level that the FAA normally evaluates 
for differences in noise that may result from certain proposed changes 
in procedures. In Table 1, there are increases in the number of people 
in higher noise exposure bands of DNL 60-65 dB and above DNL 65 dB. In 
Table 2, the average DNL decrease occurs in the lowest noise exposure 
band, while the average DNL change in the higher noise exposure bands 
is either zero or a slight increase using the population weighted 
average approach.
    The use of the total of all three DNL noise exposure bands to 
determine a net noise reduction gives equal weight to lower and higher 
levels of noise, while the FAA's practice is to give greater weight to 
higher noise levels which people find more annoying, especially noise 
levels above DNL 65 dB. Accordingly, the FAA is considering the extent 
to which a mix of noise increases and decreases in different noise 
exposure bands supports a determination of noise reduction, especially 
when reductions at lower DNL noise levels would outweigh increases at 
higher noise levels. A potential alternative approach could be to 
require reductions in all three DNL noise exposure bands to support a 
noise reduction determination for use of the CATEX. This alternative 
approach would be expected to reduce the use of the CATEX, and it 
appears less consistent with the statutory provision to compare 
procedures ``in the same airspace.'' The FAA invites comments on this 
aspect of the Net Noise Reduction Method.
    Finally, if the FAA decides to use the Net Noise Reduction Method 
or a variation of it, the FAA must also decide if and how to employ its 
significant noise impact threshold. The decision that is the most 
consistent with the statutory language would be not to employ the 
threshold at all. The statutory text is prescriptive in that a PBN 
procedure that meets the test for measurable reductions ``shall be 
presumed to have no significant affect [sic] on the quality of the 
human environment and the Administrator shall issue and file a 
categorical exclusion for the new procedure.'' Unlike CATEXes that are 
administratively established under CEQ regulations, this legislative 
CATEX is not subject to extraordinary circumstances; therefore, a CATEX 
determination is not precluded by potential environmental impacts that 
are beyond the specific parameters in the statutory text (i.e, 
measureable reductions in fuel consumption, carbon dioxide emissions, 
and noise on a per flight basis). As the FAA considers the viability of 
employing the significant noise impact threshold in conjunction with 
this CATEX, the FAA is soliciting public views on whether a threshold 
test may and should be used. Further, if a significant noise impact 
threshold test is used, should it be used only when there is a net 
increase in people exposed at DNL 65 dB and above, as the NAC Task 
Group has suggested, or should it be more broadly used to check for 
significant noise impact when there is any increase in the number of 
people exposed to noise at DNL 65 dB and above--even if there is a net 
population benefit at that level?

Solicitation of Public Comment

    The FAA invites public comment on the entirety of the prospective 
implementation of the CATEX in Section 213(c)(2) of the FAA 
Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, and particularly invites comment 
on the following specific aspects of the Net Noise Reduction Method 
which are under consideration by the FAA as described in this notice:
    1. Extent to which the FAA should rely on the Net Noise Reduction 
Method to determine measurable reductions in noise on a per flight 
basis.
    2. Appropriateness of determining that there is a measurable 
reduction in noise if people receiving a noise decrease outnumber the 
people receiving an increase, but the noise decrease is small compared 
to the noise increase.
    3. Different approaches to a net noise reduction methodology (i.e., 
population change, noise change, population weighted noise change), and 
whether the selection of one approach over another is preferred and 
increases public understanding.
    4. Extent to which a mix of noise increases and decreases could 
support a determination of measurable noise reduction, especially when 
reductions at lower noise levels outweigh increases at higher noise 
levels, and whether an alternative approach that would require 
reductions in all three noise exposure bands to support the use of the 
CATEX should be used.
    5. Whether a significant noise impact threshold test should be 
used; and if so, if it should be used only when there is a net increase 
in people exposed to noise at DNL 65 dB and above, or if it should be 
used when there is any increase in the number of people exposed to 
noise at DNL 65 dB and above--even if there is a net population benefit 
at that level.

    Issued in Washington, DC, on August 13, 2014.
Lourdes Q. Maurice,
Executive Director, Office of Environment and Energy, Federal Aviation 
Administration.
[FR Doc. 2014-19691 Filed 8-18-14; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4910-13-P