Members of Congress are calling on the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to formally work with the general aviation community to modify its controversial Large Aircraft Security Program (LASP).
Since the TSA issued its notice of proposed rulemaking on the program in October, lawmakers have been objecting to the measures in letters, hearings, and proposed legislation. Now Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) has introduced a bill, the General Aviation Security Enhancement Act of 2009, that would require the agency to engage in negotiated rulemaking in order to find a solution for the LASP that does not impose costly security regulations on GA without justification. He introduced the bill, which AOPA supports, on June 26. The bill has eight co-sponsors, including Reps. Pete Olson (R-Texas), Vernon J. Ehlers (R-Mich.), Dennis Moore (D-Kan.), Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.), Candice S. Miller (R-Mich.), Thomas E. Petri (R-Wis.), John L. Mica (R-Fla.), and John Campbell (R-Calif.).
In its original notice of proposed rulemaking, “the TSA abandoned its traditional risk-based approach at addressing security concerns and instead attempted to adopt large, commercial-aviation standards to these small, independently owned and chartered aircraft,” Dent said in a letter to his colleagues. “Though the title refers to ‘large’ aircraft, the rule proposes to regulate general aviation aircraft that are smaller than a U-Haul truck. … This legislation would simply require that, should TSA move forward with a rulemaking addressing general aviation, the TSA use a negotiated rulemaking process.”
The LASP proposal would apply airline-style security requirements to aircraft weighing more than 12,500 pounds, regardless of how they are used. In response to opposition from pilots and lawmakers, the TSA told Congress in March that it would issue a second notice of proposed rulemaking before proceeding to a final rule; this would give the public another opportunity to submit comments on the proposal, although the TSA is not obligated to make any changes based on industry recommendations. The TSA has also hosted three listening sessions with the industry to work on alternatives that will be less burdensome to GA.
A negotiated rulemaking process would expand and codify the process the TSA has already begun. A negotiated rulemaking process requires a committee of stakeholders to work together to come up with written recommendations for the TSA and includes a written record of the proceedings. In order to abandon the recommendations of the committee, the TSA would be required to provide justification.
“This legislation recognizes the concerns of AOPA and general aviation pilots about the implications of the proposed LASP for GA,” said AOPA Vice President of Legislative Affairs Lorraine Howerton. “A negotiated rulemaking process with the industry will help the TSA explore less costly and less intrusive ways to enhance GA security.”
The legislation is similar to an amendment that co-sponsor Rep. Pete Olson (R-Texas) introduced to the TSA Authorization Act of 2009 (H.R.2200). The TSA authorization bill passed the House June 4 with provisions directing the TSA to include GA stakeholders in the process of creating security regulations that affect the industry. Dent’s stand-alone bill would address the LASP specifically, ensuring that those who would be affected by the regulations have an opportunity to provide recommendations as part of an established, transparent process.