The Office of Inspector General (OIG) at the Department of Transportation has initiated an audit to assess weather and climate resiliency plans for airport grant projects.
Extreme weather events and climate change effects can cause major disruptions to airport infrastructure. In 2012, for example, Hurricane Sandy caused widespread disruptions to the National Airspace System as power outages and flooding shut down the John F. Kennedy, LaGuardia, and Newark Liberty International airports. The 2014 National Climate Assessment found that 13 of the Nation’s 47 largest airports have at least 1 runway that could be vulnerable to a moderate to high storm surge or rise in sea levels. Rising temperatures also put runways and taxiways at risk of degradation and damage.
In November 2021, Congress passed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) authorizing $15 billion to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for the Airport Infrastructure Grant (AIG) program. On July 1, the FAA awarded $371 million for the latest round of airfield, safety and other improvement projects at 169 airports in 40 states across the country. This is the third announcement of awards for the 2022 AIP, which funds a variety of projects such as construction of new and improved airport facilities, repairs to runways and taxiways, maintenance of airfield elements like lighting or signage, and the purchase of equipment needed to operate and maintain airports.
Also, in November 2021, President Biden issued Executive Order 14052, which established priorities for agencies implementing IIJA and required them to prioritize resilient infrastructure projects that help combat climate change.
The Department of Transportation’s (DOT) own Climate Action Plan established a goal to ensure that projects supported by DOT grant and loan programs incorporate appropriate and effective climate change protective features.
Given Congress’ and the Administration’s emphasis on funding oversight and aviation infrastructure resiliency, OIG’s audit will assess FAA’s plans for incorporating resiliency into AIG project selection. The audit will get underway later this month at FAA Headquarters and other selected FAA offices and facilities as needed.