by Ted Rueter
March 12, 2013
From March 12-14, 2013, a fellow Noise Free America member and I were in Washington, DC to lobby on noise pollution. Our two central objectives were
1. Strengthened enforcement of an existing EPA regulation concerning motorcycle noise (40 CFR 205).
2. Reestablishment of the federal noise pollution control office within EPA.
We had eight meetings, at the EPA, at the Old Executive Office Building (part of the White House complex) on Capitol Hill, and at the National Conference of State Legislatures. We are now on a first-name basis with each of these individuals.
The most significant meeting was at the EPA. We met with someone from the Office of Air and Radiation (the closest thing there is to a replacement for the Office of Noise Abatement and Control) and two individuals with the enforcement and compliance division.
We reviewed the substance of the Noise Control Act of 1972 and the EPA regulation governing motorcycle noise (40 CFR 205).
EPA officials continually pleaded that they lack resources to enforce noise regulations. We countered that we had spoken with White House officials about getting them more resources. We also pledged to do much of the background research ourselves to bring charges against manufacturers of illegal motorcycle exhausts.
The enforcement officials provided us guidelines on what is required to successfully file a case against an illegal noise polluter. This information was very useful.
At the Old Executive Office Building, we met with the director of public engagement with the Office of Science and Technology Policy, as well as two individuals from the Council on Environmental Quality. We reviewed the Noise Control Act of 1972 and the EPA’s motorcycle regulations. We raised the idea of an executive order to the director of the EPA, to reinstate the federal noise pollution office and/or to strengthen enforcement of 40 CFR 205. We were told that issuing an executive order was “a heavy lift,” given political realities. We were also told that even providing a mere $20 million to reinstate the Office of Noise Abatement and Control would be very difficult, given sequestration.
The White House officials did promise to distribute our document on restoring ONAC to their superiors. They also indicated that it might be possible to ask President Obama to ask the incoming EPA director to make noise pollution enforcement a higher priority. Making this request through a phone call or a private meeting would clearly be much easier, politically, than issuing an executive order.
The White House officials also indicated that upper management at EPA sometimes has discretionary funds available, which could be directed to noise pollution enforcement efforts.
On Capitol Hill, we met with representatives of:
-Representative Anna Eshoo (D, California), who was the prime House sponsor of the CALM Act, which mandated reductions in noise levels of television commercials.
-Representative Nita Lowey (D, New York), who has introduced the “Quiet Communities Act” many times, to reestablish the federal noise pollution control office.
-Representative David Price (D. North Carolina), who is my representative.
-Representative Lois Capps (D., California). Representative Capps is a nurse, and is a member of the House Nursing Caucus.
-Representative Henry Waxman (D., California), who has introduced legislation to limit helicopter noise.
Each legislative assistant expressed support for the idea of restoring the federal noise pollution office. Each expressed doubt if such legislation could pass Congress in the current political and budgetary environment.
I was pleased with the results of the trip. My lobbying partner and I have established a friendly, working relationship with officials at the White House, the EPA, and on Capitol Hill. We will continue to press for our anti-noise agenda.