Airport speaks out against pending climate bill

Legislation would impose $1,000 landing fee; officials note other ‘far-reaching’ challenges.

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Aircraft would be charged a $1,000 landing fee under newly proposed state legislation. Martha’s Vineyard Airport is objecting to the bill.

Martha’s Vineyard Airport officials are denouncing pending state legislation that would require Massachusetts airports to impose a $1,000 fee on any personal, corporate-owned, or charter rental aircraft that touch down. The money from the fee would be invested in state infrastructure that has been affected by climate change.

The bill, which is being presented by State Sen. Julian Cyr, D-Truro, was rebuked by airport commission chair Bob Rosenbaum in a written response identifying the “far-reaching” challenges the legislation would create for Martha’s Vineyard, and pointing out elements that may violate, or be pre-empted by, federal statute. 

Cyr did not return a message seeking comment. 

“Although the commission applauds any effort to address climate change (and have ourselves committed to reducing the airport’s carbon footprint by 95 percent by 2040), we have a number of concerns with this bill and its impact on the Martha’s Vineyard Airport, the Island community, and the airport users,” the letter reads.

Rosenbaum stresses that the hefty landing fee for all aircraft would scare off a large portion of the airport’s regular general aviation traffic.

At the airport, pilots pay a landing fee based on the size of their aircraft — “the current landing fees at the airport range from $15 for a small Aerostar to a maximum of $427.50 for a large Boeing 737-BBJ,” the letter reads. “The vast majority of aircraft landing at the airport pay less than $100 in landing fees.”

Rosenbaum notes that landing fees at Nantucket Memorial Airport and Barnstable Municipal Airport are comparable to the existing fee at MVY, but an additional $1,000 fee would dissuade individual pilots, as well as students in local flight schools, from flying anywhere in the commonwealth.

If such a large number of pilots cease to land on the Vineyard, the letter says, the airport would be forced to “dramatically downsize,” which would affect the overall Island economy.

A number of federal laws might also either pre-empt or be violated by certain aspects of the legislation, the letter states. 

According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) policy for establishing rates, all charges for the use of any airport function must be “just, reasonable, not unjustly discriminatory, [and] equitably apportioned among categories of users.”

In the letter, Rosenbaum says it’s likely the FAA would consider the fee excessive, and in violation of that statute. He adds that the fee could open the airport up to legal disputes from private pilots who find it discriminatory.

Another part of the bill Rosenbaum objected to would require that half of the money collected from landing fees be used by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) “to invest in infrastructure owned by the commonwealth that requires repair and adaptation due to the effects of climate change.”

Rosenbaum says that particular section would violate the FAA’s requirement that all revenue generated by a federally obligated airport be used strictly for the capital and operating needs of that airport.

“We are prohibited from diverting that revenue to other branches of government or types of infrastructure that have nothing to do with the airport,” the letter reads. “The penalties for revenue diversion are serious, and could involve a loss of future grants from the FAA or a requirement that the airport repay grants it has already received, and spent, for capital projects.”

The last issue Rosenbaum raises in his letter is the bill’s overarching goal of mitigating climate change by establishing aircraft emissions regulations.

According to the letter, the Clean Air Act (CAA) prohibits states from implementing or trying to enforce aircraft emissions regulations.

“We think it is preempted by the CAA and, if challenged in court, would be struck down,” the letter reads. If enacted, Rosenbaum says, the bill “would pose enormous economic, practical, and legal challenges” for Martha’s Vineyard Airport.

Airport director Geoff Freeman told The Times he doesn’t think the legislation takes into account the impact such a fee would have on the economy of the commonwealth, let alone on federal regulations that protect the right of free travel.

“This would affect the mom and pops: your parents or your grandparents who have a hobby of flying an airplane. That would no longer exist, along with the biplane in Katama. It would effectively shut aviation down for those people,” Freeman said.

He added that the proposed bill was not aired within the Massachusetts Aviation Caucus, so there was no opportunity for airport officials to have any kind of discussion before the legislation was filed.

“I am extremely disappointed that something like this was snuck in in the dark of night months ago, and we are just finding it out now through an email response from an aide to [Cyr]. I find it really disrespectful, for him as a representative of the Cape and Islands.”

10 COMMENTS

  1. We should not be surprised by State Sen. Julian Cyr, D-Truro you do see the D after his name. Anyone with a D after there name in politics sit around dreaming up ways to raise fees and or taxes which are one and the same.

    • Well said!

      Please stop voting for Democrats!!! I’m begging. We are one of the highest taxed states and our roads suck! That should tell you everything you need to know.

  2. Apparently, some part of the motivation for this ill considered legislation, according to an aide to Senator Cyr, was to stop the “millionaires and billionaires from flying their private jets at will”, and having a big carbon footprint. A $1,000 landing fee will not stop the millionaires and billionaires from using their planes because $1,000 is mere pocket change for them. It will stop the recreational flyers and others who provide community services with their much smaller planes from flying anywhere in the Commonwealth.

  3. A $1,000.00 landing fee would affect a medical flight from the airport to an off island hospital incase our hospital was full to capacity and couldn’t receive a medical flight from the airport to mv hospital.

    lets say there’s a 2 car crash or car/bicycle accident in the summer time on the West Tisbury=Edgartown road and a victim needs med flight immediately to Boston, med flight will have to impose the landing fee to the persons medical flight including the medical expenses even if they don’t have medical insurance or any other insurance coverage BTW Boston med flight is a non-profit organization that provides over 4 million dollars annually in free unreimbursed care to patients with little to no health insurance it would kill them financially from what they do I almost was a flight patient back in December 2011 due to a thyroid storm but I was ground transported instead.

    Get rid of Julian cyr he’s too extreme and too pricey to keep around I’m not republican or democrat just free spirited if you care about your life and if you ever have to have a medical flight ( hopefully you never need one!) But just remember you can save Boston med-flight from financial doom by not voting for cyr or any extreme politicians that might come our way in the future, I’ve never met the guy and don’t care too!..

  4. This proposal is so dumb on so many levels that I am surprised to see it made it far enough to actually make it to print. This one should have been thrown away before the hangover went away.

  5. Planes are about the worst thing a single human being can do as far as carbon footprints go. A single plane ride on a commercial plane usually produces a larger carbon footprint than an entire year of driving for most people (that’s including division between passengers). I agree that $1000 is chump change for the people that have these jets, which is why I think the fine should be means tested. If your income is in the seven figures range, your fee should be increased to the point where it hurts the same as it would someone earning minimum wage. Otherwise, a flat fee just means “legal and available –if you’re rich”.

  6. Cyr has gone BONKERS ! This guy does a lot of good for Dukes County and rarely makes stupid and irrational boners but this one takes the cake. While some wealthy “billionaire”visitors or residents could indeed “afford” the fee, others such as recreational enthusiasts, med evacs and smaller commercial craft could not cover or justify this outrageous fee unless they tripled or quadrupled their passenger boarding tickets. Not what we want or need on our island. Perhaps Cyr has spent too much time listening to and/or idolizing Mayor Pete who also has had similar delusional ideas.

  7. Increasing fees from as low as $15 to $1000 and having those funds go into some general fund seems ill-conceived. Senator Cyr should go back to the drawing board and include the Caucus to craft something that is more palatable. Private plane operators should know that this issue is not going away and they would be well served to participate.

  8. This is not a democrat issue, as others suggest. More billionaires were created under Trumps tax policies. But as a democrat I do agree get rid of Cyr. What a stupid proposal that would devastate the avistion industry. Cyr just ruined his career. Vote him out.

  9. If Senator Cyr was going after the multi-million dollar private jet fleet of Gulfstreams, etc., he could have crafted the bill more carefully to raise the fee just on those airplane. Private aviation which is still primarily an avocation for the middle class, provides the bulk of the take-offs and landings at small airports like MVY. His bill would KILL that market and further would dissuade commercial carriers, especially those with little plans such a Cape Air, from flying to Massachusetts. What a poorly conceived proposal!

    From the climate side, however, Cyr’s proposal might have some grounds as his plan would use the huge fee as a stick to reduce the impact of lead which is still a significant component of aviation fuel. There are more carefully tailored means to achieve these result. Senator Cyr, please withdraw this proposal and re-work it.

    According to the FAA at https://www.faa.gov/about/initiatives/avgas/#:~:text=Avgas%20is%20the%20only%20remaining,to%20remove%20it%20from%20avgas. :

    Avgas is the only remaining lead-containing transportation fuel. Lead in avgas prevents damaging engine knock, or detonation, that can result in a sudden engine failure. Lead is a toxic substance that can be inhaled or absorbed in the bloodstream, and the FAA and EPA and industry are partnering to remove it from avgas. Avgas emissions have become the largest contributor to the relatively low levels of lead emissions produced in this country.

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