February 03, 2012

House Passes Long-Term FAA Authorization That Keeps West Virginia Rural Air Service Flying

Washington, D.C. – The U.S. House of Representatives today put its final seal of approval on a four-year reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that will continue to ensure rural air service to communities in West Virginia and across the country through the Essential Air Service (EAS) program.

“I am pleased that Congress has flat-out rejected the proposal of the original House-passed bill that would have terminated the Essential Air Service program, which directly supports local jobs, creates a flow of goods and commerce into and out of small towns, brings families together, and links four communities in my home state of West Virginia with other cities and towns across the country and around the world,” said U.S. Representative Nick J. Rahall (D-WV), top Democrat on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.  “For communities in my home state of West Virginia, passage of the bill means a vital lifeline and engine of economic growth will be preserved.”

As part of the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978, Congress created the EAS program to distribute Federal subsidies to air carriers for providing air service to and from qualifying small communities that would not, absent the subsidies, receive service.  The original FAA bill passed by the House in April 2011 contained a provision that would have eliminated the EAS program.  Rahall fought efforts by the House to eliminate the EAS program and labored to protect air service for rural communities in West Virginia.

EAS subsidies, last year totaling approximately $7.9 million, supported critical air service between four West Virginia communities – Beckley, Clarksburg, Morgantown, and Parkersburg – and major airline hubs, giving West Virginians timely access to destinations throughout the U.S. and around the globe.

“As many of us from rural areas of the country know, EAS is a vital lifeline for our communities providing air service so that we can connect with the rest of the world, and fueling engines of economic development for our local economies,” said Rahall.  “I worked with my colleagues in a bipartisan fashion to honor the promise that Congress has made to people in rural America, recognizing the job-protecting benefits of the EAS program and the value of this critical Federal investment for rural communities.”