Bills take on helicopter noise

A slew of bills before the state Legislature aim to address helicopter noise in Hawaii.

Proposed legislation from Puna Sen. Russell Ruderman would require the state Department of Health, in collaboration with the Federal Aviation Administration, to study the impact of aviation noise on residents.

Senate Bill 436 would also require public meetings to be held during the course of the study to receive input from the community.

“While DOH could provide a noise study, we would be ill-equipped to recommend legislation to address aircraft noise because the regulation of Hawaii’s airspace in general, and the management of flight paths in particular, in addition to the noise of an aircraft at its source, are governed exclusively by federal law,” department spokeswoman Janice Okubo said. “Consequently, any undertaking by DOH to regulate in these areas would be subject to federal preemption and would likely be invalidated.”

While the bill, as originally drafted, does not provide funding for the study, Ruderman said an appropriation could be determined later. He estimates that could be about $100,000.

SB 436 was co-sponsored by fellow Big Island Sens. Lorraine Inouye, Dru Kanuha and Kai Kahele, which Ruderman said is a “strong show of unity there.”

In the state House, House Bill 421 — introduced by Rep. Richard Onishi, who serves Hilo, Keaau, Kurtistown and Volcano — would, in part, create a five-year exemption from the general excise tax for facilities that service and maintain helicopters, provided that no less than 75 percent of the helicopters serviced and maintained are equipped with “quiet technology.”

As proposed in the amended legislation, quiet technology means the use of design, technology and modifications to “reduce or redirect the sound generated by the engine exhaust, tail or the main rotor.”

If approved, the bill would take effect Jan. 1, 2020 and be repealed Dec. 31, 2024.

An amended HB 421, however, passed second reading Feb. 6 and was referred to the Economic Development and Business Committee.

Finally, Senate Bill 1069, introduced by Oahu Sen. Laura Thielen, would provide an income tax credit for taxpayers who install a “helicopter noise canceling technology system” on helicopters operated primarily within the state. The tax credit would be available through Jan. 1, 2022.

The legislation also calls for restrictions of tour helicopter flights within a mile of residential neighborhoods between 6 p.m. and 8 a.m. Monday through Saturday and 6 p.m and 9 a.m. Sundays and holidays.

A number of individuals and organizations opposed that language, though, citing the FAA’s exclusive authority to regulate flight patterns in testimony submitted before a hearing of the Senate’s Ways and Means committee.

The committee recommended approval with amendments on Feb. 6.

  1. Wally Roberts February 11, 2019 3:26 am Reply

    The FAA regulates airspace but sometimes a different federal agency can preempt the FAA. An example is the no-fly zone over The Grand Canyon. The FAA wouldn’t move, so the National Park Service took it to Congress. There is also the EPA, which can become involved about those pesky helicopters.

    1. Ingrid Braun October 22, 2019 11:49 am Reply

      Please reply to me with any information that can help us with our helicopter problem on the north shore of kauai

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