Riverton city administrator Kyle Butterfield spent several days in Washington, D.C., last month speaking with Wyoming’s congressional delegation about the challenges that impact commercial air service in the state.
Butterfield is currently the president of the Wyoming Airports Coalition, and he traveled to D.C. as part of the group’s Legislative Affairs Committee.
“It was a good trip,” he said this week. “We received really good reception from our delegates. (There’s) value in being present and making sure that our top elected officials know what we’re dealing with.”
The meetings focused on the upcoming reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration, he said, with the WAC sharing its list of “key priorities for Wyoming airports” that will be “important to include” in the congressional bill.
“These items have both national and local impacts and represent what we see as airport operators as priorities to support the national transportation network,” he explained.
The WAC report discusses the need for “robust aviation funding,” including an increase in Airport Improvement Program investments to “at least $4 billion annually.”
The group also recommended adopting a 95 percent federal share on AIP grants for airports in “high federal land states” and reforming the Essential Air Service Program, which currently “lacks the modern provisions necessary to ensure its intended purpose” and puts “small community air service in peril when coupled with the ongoing labor shortage and out-of-control cost escalations.”
“It is vitally important that these small communities remain connected to the national air transportation network,” the WAC report states.
Another section of the report talks about PFAS – an ingredient in the firefighting foam that Wyoming airports “have been required by law to use.”
“While some progress has been made in identifying PFAS as an emerging contaminant, direct federal support for airports … is needed to accelerate the clean-up process at contaminated sites,” the report states. “Airports face difficult choices when called upon to extinguish fires using FAA-approved firefighting foams. Airports should not be held liable for PFAS contamination due to complying with a federal requirement.”
Congress should provide liability protection to airports required to use the foam material, the WAC said, then direct the FAA to work with “industry stakeholders to develop a national transition plan to assist airports in moving to fluorine-free firefighting foams.”
Other priorities listed in the report include:
-improve weather observation resiliency and redundancy
-require the FAA to establish an updated equipment procurement policy
-address the aviation workforce shortage through federal support
The WAC also expressed support for the following initiatives:
-Defeat the Good Jobs for Good Airports Act
-Continue funding the Small Community Air Service Development Program
-Expand the Voluntary Airport Low Emission Grant Program to all airports
-Continue supporting the Contract Tower Program