Rockefeller meets LaHood about EAS
March 10, 2011 – By JOLENE CRAIG jcraig
WILLIAMSTOWN – An official with the local airport has said he remains optimistic Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., will be able to maintain the Essential Air Service program.
“You can pretty much rely on Rockefeller when it comes to aviation,” said Terry Moore, manager of the Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Airport.
There is indecisiveness in Congress whether to eliminate the EAS or continue it with caveats in the new Federal Aviation Administration Modernization and Safety Improvement Act. Since he introduced the FAA bill to the U.S. Senate in January, Rockefeller has been holding meetings to garner support for the program that provides 500 regional airports throughout the country commercial air service.
On Tuesday, Rockefeller, who is chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, held a special meeting with U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to discuss the importance of maintaining EAS and the program’s impact on communities across the country.
“There are some members of Congress who do not see the value that EAS provides to economic development and job creation in small and mid-size communities,” Rockefeller said. “I feel strongly that the EAS service has been beneficial to the people of West Virginia and elsewhere, and I intend to fight hard to protect the existing programs within the DOT budget.”
Following the meeting, LaHood stated he and the Department of Transportation staff recognize the need for EAS and have stressed the importance of building America’s transportation networks, including air service for rural communities.
“I appreciate Secretary LaHood’s effort on this issue and know that he will do what he can to preserve this vital link to air service,” Rockefeller said.
Moore said it makes him feel “slightly better” to know the Obama administration is supporting the EAS program and the FAA reauthorization bill.
“The fact that (LaHood) is supporting it doesn’t have a huge affect on me because the pressure to eliminate or change EAS is coming from within Congress,” Moore said. “I don’t know what kind of pressure the administration could put on Congress, but, not being there, I don’t know exactly what is going on.”
Last month, the House of Representatives Transportation and Infrastructure Committee voted to eliminate the $137 million biennial subsidy in 2013. The Senate did not terminate the program, but 31 senators did vote to get rid of it. Because of this disparity, the Senate will go into conference to continue to talk about the EAS pros and cons.
The Senate bill passed with an amendment from Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., to cut EAS subsidies for service that carries fewer than 10 passengers daily to an airport 90 miles or less from another airport with regular air service.
The discussion of the program began with the introduction of the FAA Transportation Modernization and Safety Improvement Act in January.
The original FAA bill, which was introduced to the Senate by Rockefeller, not only kept EAS, it increased the funds from $70 million to $200 million.
Currently, the Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Airport receives four flights a day to Cleveland Hopkins International Airport through Gulfstream International Airlines for $2,640,000 annually.
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