WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senators Steve Daines and Jon Tester today pressed the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to resolve Montanans’ ongoing concerns regarding the expansion of the Powder River Training Complex (PRTC) before issuing a final Record of Decision.
In a meeting today with FAA Administrator Michael Huerta, the Montana Senators called on Huerta to reevaluate the Air Force’s plan in light of increased economic activity and air traffic in southeastern Montana.
The Senators also urged Huerta to strongly consider removing the controversial PR-3 Low segment of the PRTC and further provide the area with the necessary radar capabilities to better ensure general aviation safety.
“The Air Force’s plan fails to take into account current and future needs of southeastern Montana, which has recently experienced a growth in air traffic and greater economic activity,” Daines stated. “It is imperative that the FAA takes concrete steps to address Montanans’ concerns and ensure that much-needed safety measures are in place to protect local pilots and area residents.”
“The FAA must listen to folks on the ground in Montana. I have. And I’ve heard time and time again that the proposed airspace expansion will put general aviation pilots at risk and jeopardize the safety of resident in the area,” Tester said. “It’s my hope that the FAA gives this expansion thoughtful consideration.”
The Senators also stressed that the increased economic activity and oil production in southeastern Montana is not adequately reflected in the Air Force proposal.
Over the past several years, aerial monitoring of area pipelines has increased from 500 flight hours in 2013 to more than 2500 flight hours projected for 2015. Additionally, the intended route of the Keystone XL pipeline, which contains an “on ramp” for oil in Baker, runs directly through the PR-3 training region and would require additional aerial inspections.
Last week, the Senators and Representative Ryan Zinke sent Huerta a letter to reiterate that Montanans’ input and concerns had not been sufficiently considered in the final Air Force Record of Decision on the proposed expansion. The delegation’s letter is available HERE.