Senate passes bill that would restore funding, service to Wyoming airports

Small Airport Regulation Relief Act doesn’t impact Worland’s air service status


April 20, 2016

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Senate passed bipartisan legislation today that would provide needed support to airports around Wyoming while addressing security concerns and reauthorizing funding for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

U.S. Senators Mike Enzi and John Barrasso, R-Wyo., praised provisions in the legislation that would restore Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screening at the Sheridan airport and ensure that airports can continue to receive Airport Improvement Program (AIP) funding despite downturns in regional air service caused by FAA regulations.

Some smaller airports are at risk of losing funding after federal regulations in 2013 caused a decrease in regional air service. Enzi originally introduced and Barrasso cosponsored, the Small Airport Regulation Relief Act to provide relief to airports that could lose their AIP funding. By including it in the FAA reauthorization, these smaller airports will be able to rely on AIP funding for infrastructure, safety improvements and other upgrades if the bill is passed by the House and signed by the president.

The provision that would return TSA screening to Sheridan was originally part of the Treating Small Airports with Fairness Act, introduced by Senator Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and cosponsored by Enzi and Barrasso. The language specifically requires the TSA to restore federal passenger screening operations at airports that have reestablished commercial air service, like Sheridan.

The bill, however, won’t assist the Worland Airport keep its essential air service

“The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, signed into law on February 14, 2012, amended the definition of “eligible place” for the purpose of receiving EAS,” according to the Department of Transportation document.

The amendment stated, “to be eligible, a community must have had an average subsidy per passenger of less than $1,000 during the most recent fiscal year, as determined by the Secretary of Transportation.”

For the fiscal year of 2015 that subsidy per passenger rate increased to $1,100, and though the city of Worland is $100 over, the EAS is still considering dropping the funding program.

Sen. Enzi’s Communications Director Coy Knobel said, “Unfortunately, this FAA bill does not solve the problem that Worland’s airport is having. Senator Enzi is pleased to be able to help solve some of the problems other Wyoming airports are having and he will continue to look for ways to help Worland. 

“One of the difficulties was timing.  By the time the situation with Worland arose, it was too late to work into the FAA bill.  Difficulties for Worland’s airport remain a challenge.”

Inclusions in Senate Bill

The Senate bill also includes passenger-friendly provisions, such as refunds for lost or delayed bags, along with new security and counterterrorism measures and language to address growing cybersecurity threats. All the new measures in the bill are accomplished without raising fees or taxes on passengers or imposing heavy-handed regulations that threaten consumer choice, the senators said.

A consumer columnist for the Washington Post called the bill, “one of the most passenger-friendly Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bills in a generation.”

The Senate passed the legislation by a vote of 95-3 and it is now headed to the House for consideration.


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