Noise Pollution Clearhouse
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Noise References in the United States Code

This directory lists summaries and text of sections from the United States Code that may be applicable to noise issues. The United States Code is a source of federal law enacted by Congress. A morass of federal laws (and accompanying interpretations) limits municipal and individual control over airports and other noise sources.

This page is under construction. In the future we will make this information easier for you to use. Keep in mind that although the legal structure exists within the Code, some federal offices and programs that were established are not currently funded. Also, legal challenges have clarified and interpreted Code language and therefore a literal reading of the Code may be inaccurate.

16 USC 1a-1 National Park system: administration; declaration of findings and purpose; Pub. L. 100-91 Study of Park Overflights
This section directs the National Park Service to perform a study to find the appropriate minimum altitude for scenic overflights over National Park land. Among other considerations, the study should evaluate the effects of noise on park users' safety and experience, and the change in perceived noise levels from different aircraft altitudes. The section also includes provisions for studies of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area and National Forest Wilderness Areas.

16 USC 228g Regulating aircraft flights within Grand Canyon National Park
When the Secretary of the Interior believes that aircraft activity within the Grand Canyon colors visitors' park enjoyment, this section directs the Secretary to give the FAA and the EPA recommendations for actions to protect the Park and Park visitors. Then the appropriate agency must institute these actions.

42 USC 4901-4918 Index
This index lists the sections under U. S. Code Chapter 65, known by popular title as the Noise Control Act.

42 USC 4901 Congressional findings and statement of policy
This section is a general statement of policy identifying noise as a growing danger to public health and welfare. The policy states that while primary responsibility for noise control rests in state and local government, federal action is necessary for control of noise sources in commerce. This section authorizes the establishment of noise emissions standards for products in commerce and provides for the collection of public information with respect to noise reduction.

42 USC 4902 Definitions
This is the definition section of the Act. Terminology used throughout the Act is clarified in this section.

42 USC 4903 Federal programs
This section further elaborates the congressional policy on noise pollution. Specifically, Congress describes the role of Federal Agencies and the President with respect to the establishment of noise emissions control standards. Each agency is responsible for compliance with local, interstate, state and federal noise pollution requirements. The President has the authority to exempt specific activities or facilities from compliance requirements, which must be reported to Congress.

The Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is instructed under this section to coordinate the programs of all Federal Agencies relating to noise research and control. All Federal Agencies must consult with the EPA Administrator in the establishment of specific regulations concerning noise. Changes in noise emissions standards and other regulations concerning noise may be required by the Administrator of the EPA if at any time she/he believes they do not protect public health and welfare to the extent feasible. Any changes must be published in the Federal Register with detailed information on which the decision to change the regulation is based. The Administrator must allow 90 days from that time before changing the rule. The Administrator of the EPA is also required to publish a report from time to time on the status of Federal action relating to noise research and control.

42 USC 4904 Identification of major noise sources
This section directs the Administrator of EPA to develop and publish criteria within 9 months of October 27, 1972 with respect to levels of noise and other conditions that are necessary to protect the public health and welfare with an adequate margin of safety. This section further directs the Administrator to publish reports identifying products that are major sources of noise and information on techniques for the control of noise. Reports must be revised from time to time and published in the Federal Register.

42 USC 4905 Noise emission standards for products distributed in commerce
This section lists types of industrial machinery, requiring the EPA Administrator to develop noise emission standards for equipment that is identified as a major noise source under 42 USC 4904. In addition, the Administrator may regulate noise from unlisted products if necessary to protect the public health and welfare. Noise regulations must be performance standards, and must consider the nature of the product, noise reduction from best available technology, and the cost of compliance with the standards. The code allows for the consideration of other standards where appropriate and participation by interested persons. It requires the manufacturer to warrant that its product conforms with regulations.

42 USC 4906 Omitted
This section was omitted.

42 USC 4907 Labeling
This section demands that the EPA Administrator require labels on products that reduce noise or that emit noise capable of producing adverse effects. Labels must state the level of noise that the product emits, or its effectiveness in reducing noise. The Administrator's regulations must specify the manner in which the purchaser will receive notice of the product information, the form of the notice, and the units of measurement used.

42 USC 4908 Imports
This section directs the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Administrator of the EPA, to issue similar labeling regulations with respect to imported products.

42 USC 4909 Prohibited acts
This section identifies actions that are prohibited by the Act. Prohibited actions include:
(1) Distribution in commerce, products manufactured after effective date of regulations, that are not in conformity with noise emissions standards.
(2) Removal by any person, devices designed to put products in compliance with noise emissions standards prior to the sale of the product to the ultimate purchaser.
(3) Distribution in commerce, products manufactured after the effective date of regulations, that are not in conformity with the labeling regulations.
(4) Removal by any person, of any notice affixed to a product in conformity with labeling regulations.
(5) Importation of products in violation of the standards prescribed in the Act.
(6) Failure or refusal of requirements of manufacturers to furnish information and other data to the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, or of any Orders issued to protect public health and welfare under the Act, or compliance with railroad noise emissions standards or motor carrier noise emissions standards.

The Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency may grant exemptions from these requirements for the purposes of research.

These limitations do not apply to products manufactured solely for export.

42 USC 4910 Enforcement
This section sets out criminal and civil penalties for willful, knowing violations of section 4909. Criminal penalties for violation of section 4909 subsection 1,3,5 and 6, dealing with the distribution of products or importation for distribution products in violation of labeling requirements or emissions standards and other requirements of the Act, include fines of up to $25,000 per day, imprisonment for up to one year, or both. For second violations, the criminal penalties escalate to fines of up to $50,000 per day, imprisonment for up to two years or both. Persons in violation are also subject to civil penalties of not more than $10,000 per day.

This section continues to clarify that each day of violation constitutes a separate violation.

Section 4910 also outlines the procedure for actions to restrain violations of the Act. The Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency may issue an order to protect public health and welfare. Orders may be issued only after adequate notice and opportunity for a hearing. The U.S. District courts have jurisdiction over actions brought by and in the name of the U.S. to restrain violations under section 4909.

42 USC 4911 Citizen suits
This provision allows any person to commence a civil action on his or her own behalf against any person, including the U.S. and other governmental agencies who are illegally in violation of any noise control requirement. Specifically, the provision allows any person to commence a civil action against the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency for failure to perform duties required under the Act. The provision also specifically allows any person to commence a civil action against the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration for any failure to perform duties required under section 44715 of title 49, which the section clarifies is not discretionary.

This section specifies that the U.S. District Courts have jurisdiction over citizen suits allowed under this provision without regard to the amount in controversy.

The procedure for commencement of an action requires the plaintiff to give sixty days notice to the party allegedly in violation of the Act. Notice procedure shall be established by the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency through regulations.

42 USC 4912 Records, reports, and information
This section directs all manufacturers who must comply with noise emission standards and labeling requirements to also maintain records and make products available if asked. The Administrator is able to test the products and monitor them for compliance upon request to the manufacturer.

Any information gathered by the Administrator in the course of compliance testing is confidential, except to other officials and Congressional committees.

The manufacturer could incur penalties in the form of fines, incarceration, or both in the event of the knowing falsification of records and reports, or tampering with monitoring devices or methods.

42 USC 4913 Quiet communities, research, and public information
This section promotes State and local noise control programs. It lists goals for a Federal noise control program, such as developing and distributing information on noise health effects and control using various educational channels and research, or financing research concerning noise effects, measurement, and control. The section authorizes the Quiet Communities Program, which offers state, regional, and local grants to study noise abatement and collect data, buy monitoring equipment, and provide technical assistance for noise control.

42 USC 4914 Development of low-noise emission products
This section provides for an evaluation and designation of low noise emissions products. This section permits the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency to establish a Low Noise Emissions Advisory Committee. Any person may seek to have a class or a model of a class of products certified as a low noise emissions product. The Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency shall publish in the Federal Register each application received, conduct investigation, receive and evaluate written comments and within 90 days, determine whether the item should be certified as a low noise emissions product. If certification is granted, then the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, within 180 days, shall determine whether the product is a suitable substitute for any class of products presently being purchased by the federal government for use by its agencies.

42 USC 4915 Judicial review
This section outlines the procedure for judicial review of actions taken by the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency in promulgating regulations or standards under sections 4905(noise emissions standards) 4907(labeling requirements) 4916(railroad noise emissions standards) and 4917(motor carrier noise emissions standards) of the Act. This section also provides for judicial review of standards and regulations promulgated by the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration under section 44713 of title 49. Judicial review under these provisions is in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

42 USC 4916 Railroad noise emission standards
This section requires the EPA Administrator, in consultation with the Secretary of Transportation, to publish railroad noise emission standards that employ the best available technology for railroad noise reduction, taking into account the cost of compliance. "Railroad noise" includes noise emissions resulting from the operation of railroad equipment and facilities. The standards are national in scope, and individual states are expressly preempted from varying the standards unless the Administrator, in consultation with the Secretary, deems the changes "necessary."

42 USC 4917 Motor carrier noise emission standards
This section directs the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency to publish proposed noise emissions regulations for motor carriers engaged in interstate commerce within nine months of October 27, 1972. The regulations must set limits on noise emissions from operation of motor carriers which reflect application of the best available technology, taking into account the cost of compliance. Regulations and standards proposed under this section must be created after consultation with the Secretary of Transportation. The Secretary of Transportation is directed to promulgate regulations to insure compliance with all standards adopted under this section.

Section 4917 also clarifies that no state or local authority may establish different standards than these with respect to motor carriers noise emissions. However, states and local authorities may restrict use or regulate noise in ways that do not conflict with this section.

42 USC 4918 Authorization of appropriations
This section authorizes appropriations for the purposes of carrying out the Act through fiscal year 1979.

42 USC 7641 Noise abatement
This section directs the EPA Administrator to establish the Office of Noise Abatement and Control. The office must identify causes and sources of noise. Among other determinations, the office must study projected growth of noise levels, psychological and physical human effects, effects of sporadic extreme noise, and effects on wildlife and property. The section addresses the form of the Administrator's investigation. If noise is being emitted from a federal activity, the federal agency must work with the Administrator to abate the noise.


49 USC 44715 Controlling aircraft noise and sonic booms
This section gives the FAA authority over noise and noise abatement at airports. It specifically limits the EPA Administrator's role in controlling aircraft noise. If the EPA Administrator is dissatisfied with the FAA's regulations, to survive EPA's challenge the FAA must only report its findings and the reasons behind those findings.

49 USC 47101 Policies: Airport development, improvement, and noise
This section establishes policies for safe and efficient airport development, including minimizing the impacts of airport noise on nearby communities. It recognizes that the efficiency of the national transportation system is directly linked to the country's ability to contribute effectively to the global economy. However, overexpansion of airports may adversely effect nearby communities, and efforts must be made to minimize noise impacts.

49 USC 47104

49 USC 47110

49 USC 47117

49 USC 47119

49 USC 47501 Definitions
This section outlines definitions for "airport" and "airport operator". The definitions apply to code sections regarding Airport Development and Noise, located in the Noise Abatement subchapter, sections 47501-47533.

49 USC 47502 Noise measurement and exposure systems and identifying land use compatible with noise exposure This section requires the Secretary of Transportation to consult with state and other federal agencies in order to establish reliable and uniform systems of measurement for noise and noise exposure. The Secretary must also identify land uses compatible with various noise exposures.

49 USC 47503 Noise exposure maps
This section allows an airport operator to give the Secretary of Transportation a map of the surrounding area where uses that are noncompatible with airport operations are shown. The operator must submit a revised map if a change in airport operations will give rise to a new noncompatible use.

49 USC 47504 Noise compatibility programs
This lengthy section is divided into four parts: submissions, approval, grants, and liability. The first part allows the airport operator to give the Secretary of Transportation a noise compatibility program, developed with the help of town planning agencies, the U.S. Government, and air carriers at the airport. The program states what measures the airport operator will take to reduce and prevent noncompatible uses in the area. The Secretary must approve the program if it contains certain criteria, or the program is automatically approved within 180 days if the Secretary takes no action; also, the Secretary may make grants to carry out the program.

Then the section addresses soundproofing and acquisition of residential buildings through grants. The Secretary may incur obligations under certain conditions to make grants for residential home soundproofing projects. In addition, the Secretary must give grants to an airport or town government to soundproof or acquire residential properties where noise levels are incompatible with the regular airport operations and other statutory specifications are met. Also, grants are available at the Secretary's discretion to towns or airports to carry out programs developed before 1980 if the programs are substantially consistent with the goals of reducing noncompatible uses. Lastly, the Secretary may give grants to soundproof buildings near an airport that are used for educational and medical purposes.

The section allows an airport operator to make the Secretary's grant available to a public agency in the airport region if the Secretary agrees, and then the section specifies how much the government will spend to fund projects. The final part of the section protects the federal government from liability from aviation noise.

 49 USC 47505 Airport noise compatibility planning grants
This section gives the Secretary of Transportation the authority to make grants allowing airports to gather information for planning purposes. The information collected must be necessary to the development of a noise exposure map or a noise compatibility program. All or part of the grant may come from money made available under 49 USC 48103.

49 USC 47506 Limitations on recovering damages for noise
This section allows property owners who incur losses from airport noise to recover damages when, among other elements, the damages were caused as a result of significant changes in airport layout, frequency, and flight patterns, or an increase in nighttime operations. In order to recover, the owner must have known of the existence of a noise exposure map, and the map must have been in place when the owner purchased the property.

49 USC 47507 Nonadmissibility of noise exposure map and related information
This section states that a noise exposure map or related materials may not be used as evidence in a civil lawsuit attempting to reduce noise resulting from the operation of a nearby airport. Also inadmissable is any land use the Secretary identifies as normally compatible with noise exposure.

49 USC 47508 Noise standards for air carriers and foreign air carriers providing foreign air transportation
This section requires that all domestic and international air carriers comply with noise regulations promulgated by the Secretary of Transportation, or compatible standards made by the International Civil Aviation Organization.

49 USC 47509 Research program on quiet aircraft technology for propeller and rotor driven aircraft
This section requires the Administrators of the FAA and NASA, in cooperation with aircraft industry professionals, to review the current propeller and rotor aircraft "quiet technology" research status in order to determine if supplemental study is warranted. If necessary, further research would require the development of noise reduction technology that substantially reduces propeller and rotocraft noise levels.

49 USC 47510 Tradeoff allowance
This section states that aircraft compliance with the Code of Federal Regulations, part 91, title 14 is to be determined by the tradeoff provisions found in Appendix C of the same title.


49 USC 47521 Findings
This section outlines reasons for Congress to enact a national aviation noise policy. Some reasons include noise management in order to increase airport capacities, the need for a nationally consistent code of regulations, the desire to encourage the development of quiet technology, and the requirement of a national scheme in order to receive certain funding.

49 USC 47522 Definitions
This section refers to other places to define "air carrier", "air transportation", "United States" (see 49 USC 40102(a)) and "stage 3 noise levels" (see Code of Federal Regulations part 36, title 14).

49 USC 47523 National aviation noise policy
This section directs the Secretary of Transportation to establish a national aviation noise policy. This policy must address the phaseout of Stage II aircraft with deadlines and reporting requirements. The policy must be based on a detailed economic analysis of the effect of the phaseout date on airline industry competition.

49 USC 47524 Airport noise and access restriction review program
This section relates to 49 USC 47523, which requires a national aviation noise policy. The policy must provide for a national program to review restrictions on Stage II and Stage III aircraft. Concerning Stage II aircraft, restrictions will attach only if certain listed conditions are met by the airport operator. Certain listed Stage III aircraft restrictions apply if the airport proprietor and and all aircraft operators agree, or if an aircraft operator or airport as well as the Secretary of Transportation agrees to the restrictions. The section concludes by listing situations to which the statute does not apply.

49 USC 47525 Airport noise and access restrictions on certain stage II aircraft
This section requires the Secretary of Transportation to study whether the "Airport noise and access restriction review program" applies to Stage II aircraft of 75,000 pounds or less. Generally the Secretary must consider Stage II aircraft noise levels, aviation benefits and efficiency, airport area operations compared to activities in the surrounding area, and international noise standards in making this decision.

49 USC 47526 Limitations for noncomplying airport noise and access restrictions
This section requires an airport to comply with national aviation noise policy in order to receive transportation funding or impose a passenger facility fee.

49 USC 47527 Liability of the United States Government for noise damages
This section imposes liability upon the U.S. Government, with jurisdiction in Federal Claims court, when a "taking" has occurred as a direct result of the disapproval of a noise restriction.

49 USC 47528 Prohibition on operating certain aircraft not complying with stage 3 noise levels
This section requires eighty-five percent of a carrier's subsonic transport fleet to comply with stage 3 noise levels by the end of 1999. If the carrier does not comply, it may apply for a waiver. The Secretary of Transportation must grant a waiver if, considering certain conditions, it is within the public interest. The Secretary must also prepare a schedule for phased-in compliance with noise levels, and carriers must give an annual report of their progress toward compliance.

49 USC 47529 Nonaddition rule
This section states that subsonic turbojets "imported" into this country after 1990 must comply with stage 3 noise levels, unless the Secretary grants an exemption in order to allow the carrier to modify the aircraft to meet those levels. Then the section defines "imported", clarifying which aircraft owners must comply with the rule.

49 USC 47530 Nonapplication of sections 47528(a)-(d) and 47529 to aircraft outside the 48 contiguous States
This section states that aircraft used only to provide air transportation outside the 48 states do not have to comply with stage 3 noise levels. However, a subsonic turbojet must comply with stage 3 levels if it is used for air transportation in the 48 states.

49 USC 47531 Penalties for violating sections 47528-47530
This section refers to 49 USC Chapter 463 to provide penalties (consistent with violations of certain other sections) for violating the prohibition against operating aircraft not complying with stage 3 noise levels.

49 USC 47532 Judicial review
This section states that the Secretary of Transportation's actions under 49 USC 47528-47531, (aircraft and stage 3 noise levels) are subject to judicial review under 49 USC 46110.

49 USC 47533 Relationship to other laws
This section carves out exceptions to the application of national aviation noise policy law, including laws in effect or formally initiated by certain parties before October 1990, and any other action that the Secretary of Transportation finds appropriate.

49 USC 48103



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