Congresswoman Meng seeks funding for ONAC

Photo credit: Thomas Altfather Good. Licensed under GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2

by Arline L. Bronzaft, Ph.D., Board of Directors, GrowNYC, Co-founder, The Quiet Coalition, and Honorary Chair, Quiet American Skies

Anti-noise groups, especially anti-aircraft noise groups, are delighted that Rep. Grace Meng has introduced legislation that will refund the Office of Noise Abatement and Control in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. This office was defunded by former President Ronald Reagan in 1982 and subsequent presidents have not shown interest in refunding the office despite the growing body of literature linking noise to adverse mental and physical health effects. 

In considering whether ONAC was effective in educating people on the dangers of noise and the need to find ways to lessen noise pollution, I would suggest looking at some of the literature released by that office. I happen to have paper copies of several of its booklets and flyers. The EPA published “Noise: A Health Problem” in August 1978.  The last paragraph in this booklet states: “It is finally clear that noise is a significant hazard to public health. Truly, noise is more than just an annoyance.” In the preceding paragraph, William H. Stewart, former Surgeon General, said: “Must we wait until we prove every link in the chain of causation? I stand firmly with [Surgeon General] Burney’s statement of 10 years ago. In protecting health, absolute proof comes late. To wait for it is to invite disaster or to prolong suffering unnecessarily.” Read these quotes carefully and note when they appeared in the EPA booklet – 1978.

A second brochure I have is titled “Noise – It Hurts!” and it was published in January 1979. The EPA released a brochure on its Administrator Russell Train’s talk at a 1976 noise conference, “Aviation Noise: Let’s get on with the job.” The last words of that talk are frequently quoted with respect to aircraft noise: “We really know what needs to be done.  We have simply lacked the will to do it.  Let’s get on with the job.” To back up his conclusion, Train lists ways aviation could be quieter. For more information on EPA documents, I suggest visiting the Noise Pollution Clearinghouse.   

I, like many others, wondered why Reagan defunded ONAC. I believe that he was influenced by companies so they could abate noise at their own pace. I also believe that it was the public stepping in and demanding quieter air conditioners, washing machines, lawn equipment, trains, etc. that pushed companies to speed up efforts to produce quieter equipment. Unfortunately, the aviation industry has not been very responsive to pressures from residents to lessen noise. Congresswoman Meng’s bill would allow ONAC to “take over efforts to mitigate aircraft noise.”

Do you believe there will be no push back from the aviation industry?  Hopefully, our legislators will stand with the millions of residents whose health and well-being are threatened by aircraft noise, as well as other noises, and support Meng’s legislation.

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