[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 141 (Monday, July 23, 2012)]
[Pages 43137-43141]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-15908]



Federal Aviation Administration

Aviation Environmental and Energy Policy Statement

AGENCY: Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), DOT.

ACTION: Policy Statement.


SUMMARY: This is a statement affirming the FAA's environmental and 
energy policy for U.S. civil aviation. This policy statement outlines 
guiding principles, establishes initial high level performance goals, 
and describes strategies to achieve the goals.

DATES: July 23, 2012.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Julie Marks, Office of Environment and 
Energy (AEE), Federal Aviation Administration, 800 Independence Ave. 
SW., Washington, DC 20591; Telephone: (202) 267-3494.


Policy Statement


    This policy statement affirms environmental and energy policy for 
U.S. civil aviation. The Next Generation Air Transportation System, 
commonly called NextGen, is the transformation of the U.S. aviation 
system by employing technological, operational, and infrastructure 
advances to provide improved safety, security, mobility, environmental 
performance, and quality of service.\1\ The overarching environmental 
performance goal for NextGen is environmental protection that allows 
sustained \2\ aviation growth.\3\

    \1\ See Public Law 108-176, title VII, Sec.  709, Dec. 12, 2003, 
117 Stat. 2582.
    \2\ Sustainability means developing aviation in a manner that 
enhances and promotes the Nation's economic, environmental, and 
social initiatives.
    \3\ See the NextGen Integrated Plan (December 2004) Sections 
5.1.6 and 7.6.

    The primary environmental and energy issues that significantly 
influence the capacity and flexibility of the national aviation system 
are aircraft noise, air quality, climate, energy, and water quality. 
These issues are being addressed under a range of environmental laws 
and regulations, and by governmental and industry initiatives. Major 
strides in lessening the environmental effects of aviation have been 
made over the past several decades. However, aircraft noise continues 
to be the public's primary objection to near term aviation growth. 
Aircraft emissions contribute to air quality-related health effects, as 
do emissions from all combustion processes, and are causing heightened

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concerns locally and globally. The potential effects of aircraft 
emissions on the climate of our planet may pose the most serious long 
term environmental consequences facing aviation. Noise and emissions 
will be the principal environmental constraints on the capacity and 
flexibility of the national aviation system unless they are effectively 
managed and mitigated. It is important to build on current efforts and 
develop new strategies as the system is transformed with NextGen. In 
addition, energy supply, its cost, and the relationship between the 
burning of fossil fuels and climate change are driving increased 
emphasis on the need for energy conservation and sustainable 
alternative fuels. Finally, the nation's water quality requires 
continued protection from potential contamination from airport-related 
    These combined environmental and energy challenges must be 
successfully managed and mitigated for NextGen to realize its full 
potential and for the U.S. to meet the aviation transportation needs of 
the 21st century.

Environmental and Energy Policy Framework and Principles

    This policy statement outlines guiding principles, establishes 
initial high level performance goals, and describes strategies to 
achieve the goals. The main guiding principles are (1) to limit and 
reduce future aviation environmental impacts to levels that protect 
public health and welfare and (2) to ensure energy availability and 
    Two supporting principles are:
    (1) Appropriate environmental protection measures combined with 
effective and efficient environmental reviews must be an integral part 
of strategies for future growth in air transportation. The 
implementation of a strategic Environmental Management System (EMS) 
approach should provide a foundation for improving the integration of 
environmental and energy assessment and performance into the planning, 
decision-making, and operation of the national aviation system.\4\ The 
NextGen EMS approach, featuring collaboration across stakeholders, is a 
strategic concept that requires development, maturation and a robust 
implementation plan.

    \4\ http://www.jpdo.gov/library/20101123_JPDOPaper_EMS_Strategy_v3.0.pdf.

    (2) Aviation must have reliable and sustainable sources of energy 
and must use that energy efficiently and in a manner that is consistent 
with environmental protection. Continuing progress in energy efficiency 
and pioneering advances in sustainable alternative aviation fuels will 
be key components of NextGen.
    Based on these guiding principles, this policy statement is 
intended to be a living document. The initial high level goals 
presented below will serve as the guide for setting of specific 
quantitative performance targets. We will periodically review the 
goals, targets, and strategies to achieve them and refine them over 
time based on better scientific knowledge, changing environmental 
protection and energy needs, and improved technological and operational 
capabilities. They are additionally subject to review and revision 
based on Administration policy guidance, particularly with respect to 
energy, climate, and sustainability. New goals, targets, and strategies 
may be defined based on these same factors.

Key Aviation Environmental and Energy Goals

    Each of the following initial goals is presented by impact area--
noise, air quality, climate, energy, and water quality. These goals are 
established at levels intended to reduce future aviation environmental 
and energy impacts sufficiently to protect public health and welfare 
while allowing sustained air transportation growth. They are high level 
goals at the aviation system-wide level, and are intended to be common 
to all individual organizational EMSs.
    Each goal will have quantitative targets that are actionable and 
can be used to measure progress. Initial targets, some of which have 
been established, will be based upon currently available scientific 
knowledge of aviation's impacts and will take into account near term 
operational and technological improvements.
    Noise Goal: Reduce the number of people exposed to significant 
noise around U.S. airports in absolute terms, notwithstanding aviation 
growth, and provide additional measures to protect public health and 
welfare and our national resources.\5\

    \5\ See the 2004 FAA Report to Congress on Aviation and 
Environment at www.faa.gov/library/reports/media/congrept_aviation_envirn.pdf.

    The number of people in the U.S. exposed to significant aircraft 
noise since 1975 has dropped by 90 percent, an impressive reduction 
primarily due to reductions in aircraft source noise and phase outs of 
Stage 1 and 2 aircraft over 75,000 pounds. Yet noise remains a 
predominant aviation environmental concern of the public, one of the 
principal environmental obstacles to expanding airport and airspace 
capacity, and the one that has used the most mitigation resources--
including funding from the Airport Improvement Program (AIP) and 
Passenger Facility Charges (PFC). The persistence of significant levels 
of aircraft noise in communities around airports is the major impact, 
but not the only one. There are increasing concerns in areas of 
moderate noise exposure and public complaints from suburban and rural 
areas where ambient noise is lower. At noise exposure levels below 
those involving health and welfare concerns, there are also 
sensitivities with respect to national resources such as national 
parks. While techniques and tools for measuring and modeling noise 
exposure provide a reliable means of assessing the levels of aircraft 
noise to which people are exposed, focused research could improve our 
scientific knowledge base of the extent of impacts and appropriate 
mitigation below historically-defined significant noise levels.
    Air Quality Goal: Achieve an absolute reduction of significant air 
quality health and welfare impacts attributable to aviation, 
notwithstanding aviation growth.\6\

    \6\ See the 2004 FAA Report to Congress on Aviation and 
Environment at www.faa.gov/library/reports/media/congrept_aviation_envirn.pdf.

    Aviation's impact on air quality, through emissions of specific 
pollutants, is a growing concern.\7\ Emissions of criteria pollutants 
\8\ contribute to surface air quality deterioration, resulting in human 
health and welfare impacts.\9\ The focus for commercial aviation and 
airport infrastructure is on reducing emissions of Nitrogen Oxides 
(NOX), Particulate Matter (PM), Sulfur Dioxide 
(SO2), and Hydrocarbons (HC). Lead (Pb) is an issue for 
general aviation since more than 200,000 piston-engine aircraft rely on 
leaded AvGas for safe operation and produce about half of all lead 
emissions in the U.S. At the airport level, about 30 percent of U.S. 
commercial service airports are in non-attainment areas that do not 
meet national air quality standards or in maintenance areas. For these 
airports, emissions issues add to the complexity and uncertainty of 
expansion proposals. An increasing number of airports have invested in 
low emission vehicular

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fleets and ground support equipment to reduce emissions. The national 
air quality standards are expected to become more stringent in the 
future, placing more pressure on aviation to reduce emissions despite 

    \7\ See 2009 Partnership for AiR Transportation Noise and 
Emissions Reduction (PARTNER) Center of Excellence (COE) Report 
titled Aircraft Impacts on Local and Regional Air Quality in the 
United States at http://web.mit.edu/aeroastro/partner/reports/proj15/proj15finalreport.pdf.
    \8\ There are six criteria pollutants identified in the Clean 
Air Act: Ozone; Lead; Nitrogen Oxides; Carbon Monoxide; Sulfur 
Dioxide; and Particulate Matter.
    \9\ Includes health impacts such as increased risks of mortality 
or morbidity as well as impacts that influence psychological well-
being and happiness.

    Climate Goal: Limit the impact of aircraft CO2 emissions 
on the global climate by achieving carbon neutral growth \10\ by 2020 
compared to 2005, and net reductions of the climate impact from all 
aviation emissions over the longer term (by 2050).\11\

    \10\ Carbon neutral growth is no higher carbon dioxide emissions 
in 2020 than is reported in 2005.
    \11\ Goal unveiled by U.S. at COP/15 and documented in Canada, 
Mexico, U.S. Position presented at ICAO's 37th Assembly. See Working 
Paper titled A More Ambitious, Collective Approach to International 
Aviation Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Section 2.3.

    The potential effects of aircraft emissions on the global climate 
may be the most serious long-term environmental and energy issues 
facing aviation. Aircraft account for about 3 percent of both national 
and worldwide carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Aircraft have 
been projected to contribute a larger portion of greenhouse gas 
emissions in the future--perhaps 5 percent by 2050--based on projected 
aviation growth assumptions and the prospect of easier transition to 
alternative technologies and fuels for land transport modes.\12\ There 
are additional concerns specific to aircraft as the majority of 
emissions from a given flight are directly released into the chemically 
complex and sensitive region of the upper troposphere and lower 
stratosphere. While CO2--accounting for the bulk of aviation 
greenhouse gas emissions--has the same effects regardless of where it 
is emitted, certain emissions may have greater effects when released at 
altitude. In addition, aircraft emissions of water vapor and aerosols 
lead to the formation of contrails and modification of cirrus cloud 
distribution, both of which can impact earth's climate. There is not 
yet sufficient scientific knowledge about aircraft contrails to 
determine their impact on climate or to adopt measures to deal with 
them. There are multiple, interrelated impacts due to aircraft 
emissions with varying degrees of understanding, with CO2 
being the best understood and quantified.

    \12\ See Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fourth 
Assessment Report, ``Working Group 1: The Physical Science Basis,'' 

    Energy Goal: Improve National Airspace System (NAS) energy 
efficiency by at least two percent per year, and develop and deploy 
alternative jet fuels for commercial aviation.\13\

    \13\ See ICAO Assembly Resolution A37-19: Consolidated statement 
of Continuing ICAO policies and practices related to environmental 
protection--Climate change, Section 23.g).

    Aircraft engine and airframe advances, together with improved air 
traffic management and operating procedures, have dramatically improved 
aircraft fuel efficiency. The aircraft energy efficiency improvement 
over the last 20 years has outpaced other forms of transportation in 
the U.S. Notwithstanding this success, there is renewed emphasis on 
improving the fuel efficiency of the aviation system. Fuel currently 
represents the largest operating cost for U.S. airlines, and this cost 
category has grown dramatically in recent years. The air traffic 
modernization planned under NextGen should further improve efficiency 
by reducing delays and enabling more direct routings. Sustainable 
practices by airport operators can conserve energy, make use of 
renewable resources (solar, wind, geothermal), and deploy low emission 
vehicles and ground support equipment.
    Moreover, advances in the development of sustainable alternative 
fuels offer great promise for emissions reduction. Nearly 100 percent 
of the fuel used in aviation operations is petroleum based--raising 
issues of energy supply, energy security, and fossil fuel emissions 
affecting air quality and climate. In response to these multiple 
concerns, government and the aviation industry have a strong interest 
in ``drop in'' alternative aviation fuels that can be blended with or 
replace petroleum jet fuel with no changes to existing engines, 
aircraft, ground infrastructure, and supply equipment.
    Alternative fuel options that use plant oils, sugars, or cellulose 
from plants have the potential to dramatically reduce CO2 
emissions, if produced in a sustainable manner. Generally, all 
alternative aviation fuel options appear to reduce particulate matter 
emissions in engine exhausts--a cause of respiratory ailments, although 
not unique to aviation as a source.
    Water Quality Goal: Limit the adverse aviation discharges to U.S. 
waters and reduce aviation's contribution to significant water quality 

    \14\ This goal is consistent with Sections 401, 402, and 404 of 
the Federal Pollution Control Act of 1972, as amended (now the Clean 
Water Act) and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969.

    Many U.S. airports are located near waterways and wetlands because, 
when airports were originally built, the best available land suitable 
for an airport (flat and inexpensive) was often found near water. As a 
result, aviation has the potential to adversely affect surface water 
and groundwater biologically, chemically, and physically. Runoff 
containing sediments, fluids, fuel, construction materials, and other 
waste products can cause adverse water quality and biotic community 
impacts during airport construction. Apart from construction, an 
airport's storm water discharges, aircraft and pavement deicing 
activities, and aircraft fueling and maintenance procedures can 
contribute further to water quality impacts. As an example, biological 
and chemical breakdown of deicing chemicals in airport runoff can cause 
severe dissolved oxygen demands on receiving waters. Additives in 
deicing chemicals may be toxic to aquatic life. The Nation's water 
quality is controlled by legislation and regulations, permit programs, 
spill control prevention planning, and best management practices. It is 
important for aviation to continue efforts to minimize discharges that 
adversely affect water quality.

Aviation Environmental and Energy Strategies

    The environmental and energy challenges confronting aviation are 
not amenable to a single solution; rather, they will require multiple 
solutions involving innovations in technology, operations, planning, 
and sustainability. A five-pillar comprehensive and integrated approach 
to achieving aviation environmental and energy goals, based on 
aviation's traditional strengths of technological and operational 
innovation, is outlined below with examples provided under each 
    Improved Scientific Knowledge and Integrated Modeling. Aviation 
environmental analyses, impact determinations, and mitigation decisions 
for NextGen activities must continue to be based on a solid scientific 
foundation. This will require continued investments in research to 
improve our scientific understanding of the impacts of aviation. This 
is particularly important with respect to aviation's effects on 
climate. It is also germane to gaining a more nuanced and multi-faceted 
understanding of noise impacts, given community concerns with aircraft 
noise and public pressures to mitigate noise at levels lower than 
current Federal guidelines. In addition, the development and use of 
advanced decision-support tools that account for interdependencies of 
impacts and cost-benefit analyses of potential solutions will 
facilitate more informed decision-making. Prospective solutions and

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combinations of solutions have different impacts, benefits, and costs. 
Some solutions have the ability to optimize for one area of 
environmental protection at the expense of another, and trade-offs 
should be as transparent as possible.
    Air Traffic Management Modernization. The development and 
integration of advanced operational procedures and infrastructure 
improvements will foster National Airspace System (NAS) operational 
capabilities that will function more efficiently and contribute to 
mitigating environmental impacts and improving energy efficiency. 
NextGen will increase the efficiency of aircraft operations, both in 
the air and on the airport surface. Improving efficiency saves time and 
fuel. Reducing fuel consumption reduces CO2 emissions that 
affect climate and other emissions that adversely affect air quality. 
Fuel burn, emissions, and flight times can be cut by Performance Based 
Navigation (RNAV/RNP) routes. Optimized Profile Descents can reduce 
noise, emissions, and fuel consumption. NextGen technology and 
procedures that optimize gate-to-gate operations are being demonstrated 
with international partners in Europe and Asia-Pacific to reduce fuel 
burn, emissions, and noise.
    New Aircraft Technologies. Historically, new technologies have 
offered the greatest success in reducing aviation's impacts. New 
engine/airframe technologies will need to play key roles in achieving 
aviation environment and energy goals. The U.S. will support advances 
in engine technology and airframe configurations to lay the foundation 
for the next generation of aircraft. Our technological strategy 
envisions a fleet of quieter, cleaner aircraft that operate more 
efficiently with less energy. The FAA and NASA, along with the 
Department of Defense, closely coordinate efforts on aeronautics 
technology research through the President's National Science and 
Technology Council's multi-agency National Aeronautics Research and 
Development Plan. Each agency focuses on different elements but they 
share the same national goals. The FAA's focus is on maturing 
technologies for near term application, while NASA focuses on a broader 
range of time frames of technology development. This includes future 
concepts such as electric aircraft.
    Sustainable Alternative Aviation Fuels. Sustainable alternative 
aviation fuels development and deployment offer prospects for enabling 
environmental improvements, energy security and economic stability for 
aviation. The aviation industry has made a commitment to convert its 
fuel supply to alternative fuels.\15\ Government and industry are 
working cooperatively with coordinating mechanisms such as the 
Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuels Initiative (CAAFI) and are 
supporting alternative fuels research. Near term efforts include adding 
new classes of fuels to the approved alternative jet fuel standard by 
ASTM International, conducting aircraft flight tests using alternative 
fuels and ascertaining their emissions characteristics, lifecycle 
greenhouse gases, and sustainability. A number of challenges remain to 
sustainable alternative fuel deployment, including financing for 
commercial production.

    \15\ See 2011 The Future of Aviation Advisory Committee (FAAC) 
Final Report; http://www.dot.gov/faac/environment.html.

    Policies, Environmental Standards, and Market-based Measures. 
Development and implementation of appropriate policies, programs, 
regulations, and mechanisms are critical to support advantageous 
technology and operational innovations and accelerate their integration 
into the commercial fleet, the airport environment, and entire national 
aviation system. The NextGen EMS approach will integrate environmental 
protection objectives into NextGen and facilitate National 
Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) reviews. Cooperative partnerships 
between government and industry can focus and leverage funding in ways 
that are beneficial for aviation and good for the environment. There is 
a need for continued and enhanced exploration of the most effective 
means to address residual aircraft noise impacts that cannot be reduced 
through technologies to guide capital investments in noise mitigation 
such as sound insulation, to encourage adequate land use planning, and 
to support other methods. Internationally, the U.S. is leading efforts 
at the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to limit and 
reduce international aviation emissions, including development of a 
CO2 standard for aircraft, and a new particulate matter (PM) 
certification requirement for engines. ICAO has additionally agreed to 
explore more ambitious goals for the aviation sector, including carbon 
neutral growth in the mid-term and reductions in the long term. The 
U.S. is exploring the effectiveness of various policies, including 
economic incentives to limit and reduce CO2 emissions. The 
U.S. is also supporting studies to investigate the need, cost and 
trade-offs, and the technological feasibility of more stringent noise 
standards. Additionally, if we are to achieve environmental and energy 
goals beyond the near term, policies may be needed to accelerate the 
integration of new technologies into the civil fleet compared to the 
normal rate of introduction and replacement.

Roles, Responsibilities, and Harmonization

    Developing the future air transportation system is a shared 
responsibility among U.S. government agencies and the aviation industry 
that involves effective planning, research and development, resource 
deployment, performance, and collaboration. The Federal government is 
responsible for national policy and regulations including aircraft 
noise and emissions, aviation safety, airspace management and air 
traffic control, research and development, and managing Federal 
investments in the NAS. Airport proprietors are responsible for 
managing their airports, including planning and implementing actions to 
mitigate the adverse effects of airport operations and development on 
community noise, air quality, and water quality consistent with Federal 
regulations. Manufacturers of airframes and engines engage in research 
and development and produce the new technologies that are so critical 
to reducing the environmental footprint of aviation. Air carriers, air 
freight operators, and other aircraft operators make product purchase 
decisions that affect fleetwide environmental performance and fly and 
service aircraft in ways that affect fuel use and environmental 
impacts. The use of EMSs by aviation stakeholders contributing to 
NextGen will play an important role in achieving the environmentally 
sustainable growth of air transportation.
    It is also important to recognize that civil aviation is an 
inherently global endeavor. We are committed to a sustainable national 
aviation system that is seamlessly integrated with the larger 
international system. This will require harmonization with 
international standards, recommended practices, and guidance through 
ICAO. This aviation environmental and energy policy statement is 
intended to be implemented constructively within the larger 
international system.


    Aviation has features that distinguish it from other transportation 
modes and industries that must be factored into the application of 
environmental and energy strategies. A high premium on safety demands 
the incorporation of only proven and technically sound technologies to 
reduce environmental impacts. Aircraft are high cost and have

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a long life span, requiring long lead times for new technologies to be 
widely incorporated in the fleet and close attention to financial 
feasibility. Airborne systems must be lightweight and fuel-efficient. 
Airlines and other aircraft operators will need to invest the capital 
to purchase aircraft with new technologies for aviation to realize the 
environmental and operational benefits. Airport infrastructure requires 
substantial planning and construction effort, as well as public and 
financial support. Noise, air quality, and climate effects of aviation 
result from an interdependent set of technologies and operations, so 
that action to reduce impacts in one area (e.g., aircraft engine noise) 
can increase impacts in another area (e.g., nitrogen oxides emissions). 
Efforts to protect water quality by reducing deicing fluid discharge 
could affect safety and efficiency of operations. Such considerations 
increase the challenge of achieving ambitious environmental and energy 
goals. Nevertheless, aviation's impressive record of creativity and 
innovation can rise to these challenges.
    This policy statement is intended to outline strategies and 
approaches necessary to meet the environmental and energy challenges 
that confront the U.S. civil aviation system. There is a shared 
commitment to moving the aviation sector to environmental performance 
that will reduce aviation's noise, air quality, climate, energy, and 
water quality impacts notwithstanding the anticipated growth in 
aviation. Through broad inclusion and sustained commitment among all 
stakeholders, the U.S. will be a global leader in researching, 
developing, and implementing technological, operational and policy 
initiatives that address mobility and environmental needs.

Lourdes Q. Maurice,
Executive Director, Office of Environment and Energy.
[FR Doc. 2012-15908 Filed 7-20-12; 8:45 am]