The Commonwealth Ports Authority has requested Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) to contact the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and its Subcommittee on Aviation to see whether EAS-eligibility requirements can be further amended to allow the CNMI’s participation in the program.
Although CPA has already started preparing its application for the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Small Community Air Service Development Program, CPA board chair Kimberlyn King-Hinds still needs Sablan’s help in possibly getting the U.S. DOT to amend requirement for its Essential Air Service Program to include the CNMI
King-Hinds explained that the significance of the EAS program is that it guarantees that small communities like the CNMI maintain a minimal level of scheduled air service.
“As for the Essential Air Service Program, it is my sincere hope that the CNMI can be re-designated as an eligible community, especially since the purpose of the EAS program is to guarantee that small communities maintain a minimal level of scheduled air service. It is my opinion that the amendment limiting EAS-eligible communities to those participating between Sept. 30, 2010, and Sept. 30, 2011, should have exempted more than just communities in Alaska and Hawaii—it should have also exempted other similarly-situated non-contiguous communities, such as those found within the CNMI. If that provision of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act is the only barrier to the CNMI’s designation as an EAS-eligible community, then I ask that you please consider contacting members of the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and its Subcommittee on Aviation to see whether EAS-eligibility requirements can be further amended to allow the CNMI’s participation in the EAS program,” King-Hinds wrote Sablan.
In a previous letter to CPA, Sablan explained that according to aviation policy experts of the Congressional Research Service, Congress has occasionally modified EAS eligibility requirements, but it has never designated a specific location or community as eligible for EAS. At one point, Sablan said, airlines servicing the CNMI received subsidy under the EAS program but allowed the subsidies to lapse. This resulted in the removal of the CNMI from the EAS-eligible list.
“By way of history, the EAS program was established in the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 (P.L. 95-504) to ensure that small U.S. communities, which had been served by certificated airlines prior to deregulation, maintained a certain level of commercial air service. Rota, Tinian, and Saipan were all designated as eligible communities in 1978. In fact, airlines serving the Northern Marianas received EAS subsidies in the 1980s. Continental Air Micronesia was provided an EAS subsidy to provide air service to Rota in 1982 and in 1984. At some point in time, however, CPA and the airlines allowed these subsidies to lapse for reasons the congressional office has not been able to determine,” he said.
Because Rota, Tinian, and Saipan airports were no longer receiving subsidies, they became ineligible for future assistance when the FAA Modernization and Reform Act that scaled the program nationwide in 2012.
“The law discontinued eligibility for the program for over 600 communities that were not receiving EAS subsidy,” Sablan said.