Rules for the Sake of Rules?

For the last few months of 2011, Cedar City and the local papers kept announcing that at long last, beginning on January 4, 2012, Cedar City’s airport would finally have jet passenger service.  And indeed on the afternoon of January 4, a Delta regional jet took off from the airport bound for Salt Lake City, replacing the twin turboprop Brasilia Embraers that have provided service for almost twenty years. Unhappily, that single jet flight has been the only one, since as soon as the regional jet landed in Salt Lake, the FAA forbid any further passenger jet flights by Delta until an environmental assessment was completed.  And that will take a minimum of two months, more likely four.

Was this for safety or environmental reasons?

Not so far as I or anyone else can determine.  The Cedar City airport has a runway almost 10,000 feet long that was recently upgraded and is capable of landing full-sized passenger jets.  It’s an approved diversion airport and has landed DC-10s.  It is already certified as meeting all standards for jet aircraft, and there are more charter and business jet flights every day than the two arrivals and two departures Delta/Skywest operates.  The regional jets would not have added to the number of flights, only upping the passenger capacity per flight from 30 to 50.

As for environmental reasons, even as a former environmental consultant and an appointee to the U.S. EPA during the Reagan Administration, I can’t see any.  To begin with, the Embraers previously providing service – and once more providing that service – are turbo-props.  In other words, the engines turning those props are jets.  So all that we’re talking about is a slightly larger jet engine.  The airport is located away from most residential areas, but with only four flights a day, and those being flown by a comparatively small regional jet, the noise isn’t an issue.  The airport has often been used by military tankers [KC-135s, as best I can determine] for practice approaches and touch-and-go landings [and their noise can be deafening], and it’s a tanker base for Forest Services fire-fighting aircraft, all of which are far louder and more polluting than regional jets.

So why does the FAA require an environmental assessment when the airport already complies?  Because the FAA says so.  That’s why.  And why did the FAA wait to issue this edict until after Skywest had begun service, when Skywest had arranged for the aircraft and filed the schedule/aircraft changes months in advance?  Well… there’s no answer for that, either.

I may not like environmental rules that stop construction to attempt to save endangered species [like the Utah Prairie Dog], and I may question the benefits of other environment rules and legislation, but I can at least understand their goals and purpose. But… this? It’s an exercise in bureaucratic turf management with absolutely no value or purpose, since it’s already been determined, by the FAA, no less, that there’s no adverse environmental or safety impact.

This sort of bureaucratic nonsense is exactly why so many Americans get fed up with government and is certainly one of the reasons why Republicans are making hay in their campaign against the president and why all too many Americans have given Congress the lowest approval ratings ever.

But… “rules is rules.” Right?



1 thought on “Rules for the Sake of Rules?”

  1. R. Hamilton says:

    If I understand correctly, the existing rules make it easy for advocacy groups to sue to halt any new development, _especially_ if it cannot be shown that every possible hoop has been jumped.

    The idea may be well-intended (although it sounds to me like yet another lawyer full-employment act) – by leveraging interest groups to ensure that all precautions are taken and to offset the alleged financial power of “wealthy” businesses (which airlines generally are not). But the practice of it seems to result in nothing but obstructionism and maximum CYA on the part of bureaucrats.

    As to why the objections weren’t raised until so late? Probably sat in someone’s desk drawer until alarm bells went off.

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