WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Monday, U.S. Senator Deb Fischer, a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, Senator Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) and Representative Adrian Smith (NE-03) led a letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao voicing concerns about the department’s plan to terminate the Essential Air Service (EAS) program in Nebraska communities.
The EAS program is crucial to the continuation of air service to rural Nebraska. Last month, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced plans to end EAS eligibility for Western Nebraska Regional Airport in Scottsbluff and Kearney Regional Airport in Kearney.
The full text of the letter to Secretary Chao is available below:
October 16, 2017
The Honorable Elaine Chao
U.S. Department of Transportation
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20590
Dear Secretary Chao:
On September 29, 2017, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) issued an order (DOT 2017-9-23) regarding airport eligibility for the Essential Air Service (EAS) program. In the order, DOT announced its plans to tentatively terminate EAS eligibility for 27 communities, including the Western Nebraska Regional Airport in Scottsbluff, Nebraska, and Kearney Regional Airport in Kearney, Nebraska. Given the critical transportation services these airports provide to rural communities in Nebraska, we are concerned that DOT’s plan to terminate EAS support in these areas will significantly impact travel for rural Nebraskans.
This order comes as both Kearney and Scottsbluff are applying for a new EAS carrier after their previous carrier, PenAir, ceased operations on September 11, 2017. We have been encouraged by DOT’s efforts to work with these communities as they seek a new carrier to replace PenAir. We encourage further cooperation between DOT, Kearney, Scottsbluff, and North Platte, which was also affected by PenAir’s cessation of service. Eliminating EAS support at this time for Kearney and Scottsbluff would worsen an already difficult situation.
DOT’s order provides these communities with the opportunity to object to DOT’s findings and to petition for a waiver from the eligibility requirements. Given the negative impact the termination of EAS support would have on these communities, especially during their transition to a new carrier, we offer our support for any objections raised or petitions for waiver requested by Scottsbluff and Kearney airports.
Thank you for your attention to this important matter. We look forward to working with you to ensure that Nebraska’s rural communities continue to have access to vital commercial air transportation service.