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Technology for a Quieter America (2010)

Chapter: 8 The Role of Government

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Suggested Citation:"8 The Role of Government." National Academy of Engineering. 2010. Technology for a Quieter America. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12928.

The Role of Government

This chapter provides a review of federal, state, and local government responsibilities for noise emission levels. Although state and local governments do not have the authority to control noise from some sources that have been federally preempted, such as transportation (e.g., aircraft, new motor vehicles, railroads), they play an important role in preparing environmental impact assessments for new transportation projects and other federally funded construction. State and local governments are also responsible for controlling other sources of environmental noise, such as noise from industrial and commercial facilities.


Currently, research and other activities related to noise abatement and control by federal agencies are poorly coordinated. Because each agency has its own methodology for dealing with noise problems, there are few uniform descriptors, criteria, or approaches to noise control on the federal level. For example, the Federal Highway Administration, the largest modal agency in the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), has adopted immission criteria based on a single hour of noise exposure, in contrast to the nearly universal use of the day-night average sound level.

A few government organizations, however, meet regularly to coordinate noise research and activities. Perhaps the most notable of these is the Federal Interagency Committee on Aircraft Noise (FICAN), which was chartered in 1993 to “carry out interagency coordination on matters related to aviation noise research in the United States.” FICAN meets quarterly and is chaired by one of its member agencies on a two-year rotating basis.

Another example of an active organization is the National Research Council Transportation Research Board (TRB) Committee ADC40 (Transportation-Related Noise and Vibration), which has subcommittees that focus on noise from aviation, highway, and rail transportation. ADC40, like all other TRB committees and subcommittees, meets annually in January in Washington, D.C., and holds additional meetings elsewhere during the year. TRB committees are not involved in policymaking and generally do not coordinate noise research, but they do provide a venue for the presentation and discussion of research by other organizations. Committee members are drawn from the federal government (primarily DOT), academia, private consulting organizations, and state departments of transportation. In addition, a large number of “friends” are kept informed about ADC40 activities (ADC40, 2009).

Two of the most active organizations involved in the coordination of noise issues on the federal level are the Partnership for Air Transportation Noise and Emissions Reduction (PARTNER) and the Joint Program and Development Office (JPDO). PARTNER’s primary areas of focus are noise, air quality, and climate change. JPDO, which deals with the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen), is mainly focused on the capacity of air transportation and only peripherally on noise.

A third organization, a DOT working group chaired by Arnold Konheim of the Office of the Secretary of Transportation (OST), meets annually and on an ad hoc basis when urgent noise issues arise. Representatives of all DOT modal agencies attend these meetings.

In the past, noise-related activities on the federal level were better coordinated. In the Noise Control Act of 1972 (NCA 72), Congress assigned the task of coordinating “the programs of all federal agencies relating to noise research and noise control” to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This coordinating function is not being carried out. More details on EPA activities are given in a later section of this chapter.

Federal Interagency Committee on Aviation Noise


Two programs for coordinating federal activities on noise issues—the Federal Interagency Committee on Urban Noise (FICUN) in the late 1970s and the Federal Interagency

Suggested Citation:"8 The Role of Government." National Academy of Engineering. 2010. Technology for a Quieter America. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12928.

Committee on Noise (FICON) during the 1980s and early 1990s—preceded the creation of FICAN in November 1993. FICUN developed land use noise compatibility guidelines for all modes of transportation in 1980, and FICON focused on airport noise in a 1992 report, Federal Agency Review of Selected Airport Noise Analysis Issues (FICON, 1992). Among FICON’s recommendations was that a standing federal interagency committee be formed to assist agencies in research and development (R&D) related to aviation noise. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) committed itself to establishing such a committee in its report to Congress in 1993 (see


FICAN meetings are held quarterly and at the discretion of the chair. Members are appointed by their respective agencies, each of which is obligated to send a representative to all proceedings. The chair and vice chair are selected by majority vote every two years, with the understanding that the positions will rotate among the agencies. Current members are DOT, OST, FAA, U.S. Department of Defense (DOD), U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI), National Park Service, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and EPA.


FICAN is not involved in setting policy related to aviation noise. Its role is to review and comment on technical issues and make recommendations. FICAN is a focal point for questions on R&D on aviation noise.


Members contribute to a pooled fund to administer the committee’s activities. FICAN operates on a limited budget, generally about $100,000 per year, most of which goes toward contracts with outside parties to support its activities, including administrative assistance. Harris Miller Miller & Hanson Inc., a private contractor, has provided administrative assistance since 1993.

Although FICAN conducts studies, it is not a source of major research contracts. Its efforts are directed toward reviewing ongoing research on aviation noise with an eye toward avoiding duplication. As part of its coordinating role, FICAN reviews activities related to research on aviation noise by PARTNER, JPDO, and TRB committees and programs. FICAN also prepares position statements on subjects of interest suggested by member agencies and on reports it has been asked to review. Public workshops and symposia are held from time to time.

Application of the FICAN Model

FICAN was created to study technical issues, not to make policy. Committee participants are qualified in technical aspects of the field of aviation noise, but participation in FI-CAN is peripheral to their jobs. They are appointed by their respective agencies but are not required to report on their activities, nor do member agencies take any action as a result of FICAN’s work. Committee members tend to be less than enthusiastic and are not given extra credit for their efforts.

FICAN is made up entirely of federal agencies. Although industry participation is not included in the workings of the committee, private-sector research is included in FICAN’s reviews.

Partnership for Air Transportation Noise and Emissions Reduction


PARTNER, which was established in 2003, is one of the FAA’s eight air transportation centers of excellence, wherein colleges and universities are given grants to conduct research on aviation issues considered important to airspace planning and airport design. Centers of excellence, which were established through enabling legislation dated November 1990 as an amendment to the Federal Aviation Act of 1958, represent a strategic research partnership of government, academia, and industry. Elements of the PARTNER program include education, research, and technology transfer in the context of an academic setting. PARTNER is the only FAA center of excellence that deals with noise issues (in addition to air quality and climate change).


PARTNER is sponsored by the FAA, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and Transport Canada. Consequently, it can be considered an example of federal coordination of noise research, even if the research is conducted by academic institutions and not by federal agencies. Nine collaborating universities conduct PARTNER research. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the lead university, provides PARTNER’s program director, Ian Waitz, and an administrative office. An extensive advisory board with 53 member organizations supports PARTNER, by giving advice and by directly collaborating in the research program. All federal grant funds allocated through PARTNER must be matched one to one with nonfederal cost sharing (typically from in-kind support provided by the advisory board and other organizations collaborating on research programs).

One of PARTNER’s greatest strengths is the diversity and inclusiveness of the advisory board. Members include representatives of aerospace manufacturers; airlines; air-

Suggested Citation:"8 The Role of Government." National Academy of Engineering. 2010. Technology for a Quieter America. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12928.

ports; national, state, and local governments; professional and trade associations; nongovernmental organizations; and community groups.


The purpose of PARTNER is to provide a forum for coordinating research in the areas of aviation noise, air quality, and climate change.


Recommendations for research topics are solicited from the advisory board, sponsoring organizations, and academic institutions. The sponsors—FAA, NASA, and Transport Canada—decide which topics should be funded. Projects are reviewed at designated semiannual meetings.

Application of the PARTNER Model

PARTNER is a good example of how research can be coordinated with input from federal agencies, academia, industry, community, and other organizations. However, some federal agencies are more active in PARTNER than others, and the centers of excellence have a strong focus on academic R&D and the development of the future workforce. PARTNER might be more effective with interagency coordination of federal research endeavors in a broader range of noise-related topics.

Joint Planning and Development Office


Although JPDO is not focused on noise-related activities, its organizational structure provides a potential model for a multiagency cooperative effort to establish policy. The JPDO website ( describes the background of the formation of this office:

By 2025, U.S. air traffic is predicted to increase two to three times. The traditional air traffic control system will not be able to manage this growth. The Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) is the solution. NextGen is an example of active networking technology that updates itself with real-time shared information and tailors itself to the individual needs of all U.S. aircraft. NextGen’s computerized air transportation network stresses adaptability by enabling aircraft to immediately adjust to ever-changing factors such as weather, traffic congestion, aircraft position via GPS, flight trajectory patterns, and security issues. By 2025, all aircraft and airports in U.S. airspace will be connected to the NextGen network and will continually share information in real time to improve efficiency, safety, and absorb the predicted increase in air transportation.

NextGen was enacted in 2003 under VISION 100—Century of Aviation Reauthorization Act (P.L. 108-176). As part of this initiative, JPDO, which is responsible for managing a public/private partnership to bring NextGen online by 2025, is the central organization that coordinates specialized efforts by DOT, DOD, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC), the FAA, NASA, and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).

A further description of JDPO’s task is “to create and carry out an integrated plan for NextGen, spearhead planning, and coordinate research, demonstrations and development in conjunction with relevant programs of other departments and agencies, and with the private sector.”


JPDO is governed by federal agencies, primarily DOT, but working groups include representatives of private industry. For example, the working group on aircraft is cochaired by the FAA and Boeing.


JPDO administers the NextGen program, guided by three planning documents:

  • “Concept of Operations” describes how NextGen will work as a system.

  • “Enterprise Architecture” provides structural details to make NextGen work.

  • “Integrated Work Plan” describes the steps in the transition from existing conditions to the new system.


A senior policy committee directs the NextGen initiative. The committee is chaired by the secretary of transportation and includes the DOT undersecretary for policy; administrator of the FAA; administrator of NASA; secretary of the U.S. Air Force, representing DOD; deputy secretary of DOC; deputy secretary of DHS; and the director of OSTP. A board made up of senior personnel from each member agency reports to the senior policy committee. JDPO has six divisions, each headed by a division director from federal agencies (JPDO, NASA, and FAA). Finally, working groups consisting of teams of representatives from federal agencies and industry work to solve problems and make recommendations.

Working groups have the following features:

  • a documented mission statement, terms of reference, structure definition—all guided by “Framework of NextGen”

Suggested Citation:"8 The Role of Government." National Academy of Engineering. 2010. Technology for a Quieter America. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12928.
  • an executive committee cochaired by one person from government and one from industry

  • standing committees that handle long-term issues and ongoing tasks

  • study teams that address short-term tasks and can draw on expertise from other working groups and study teams, as needed

Application of the JPDO Model

Noise research is not the main focus of JPDO (as it is for FICAN). However, the Environmental Working Group is charged with “thinking green” and providing environmental protection while sustaining aviation growth. According to the JPDO website, the Environmental Working Group considers four key areas: aviation noise, air quality, water quality, and fuel consumption.

JPDO is an example of a successful multidisciplinary organization that establishes policy, coordinates research, and encourages noise control.

National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health Partnerships on Occupational Noise

The following statement is taken from an internal National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) document:

Partnerships are an important element of many aspects of the NIOSH Hearing Loss Research (HLR) program, from planning to research activity to transfer of outputs. NIOSH considers an external organization to be a partner when they are involved in the inputs and activities of our program. In partnership we have a joint effort to conduct research, develop technology, define best practices, and promulgate the knowledge gained from our research. The HLR program has an active interaction with many external partners across a wide variety of organizations and collaborations…. Our partners come from many organizations, including other governmental agencies…. The HLR program has active collaborations with sister agencies like the Mine Safety and Health Administration, the OSHA, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), who use or could use program outputs for regulatory actions. HLR program outputs are also used by non-regulatory sister agencies such as the DOD and the Federal Railway Administration.

Environmental Protection Agency

EPA’s responsibilities (according to current law) must be reviewed as part of any analysis of the federal government’s activities related to noise. The Clean Air Act established the Office of Noise Abatement and Control (ONAC) in the EPA, and then the Noise Control Act of 1972 and the Quiet Communities Act of 1978 (QCA 78) resulted in an active noise control program within EPA. This is described in the next section.

Noise Legislation

EPA’s responsibilities, under the NCA 72 and QCA 78, are codified in 42 USC 65 4901-4918. In the early 1970s the program was tilted toward regulatory activity (imposed by Congress), but the “Levels Document” was an outstanding contribution both for its definition of what constitutes acceptable community noise levels and at what point noise exposure becomes hazardous (EPA, 1974). In later years (1976 to 1981) the program was oriented more toward outreach, support of state and local activities, research, and technical assistance.

EPA activities were carried out by ONAC and have been reviewed by Maling (2003). President Reagan ordered that the EPA noise program be phased out by the end of fiscal year 1982. This action effectively disestablished ONAC. Some noise regulations still remain in the Code of Federal Regulations, and EPA’s responsibilities are still spelled out in the Code. ONAC still exists on paper in the Code. Despite the 1982 phase-out, there is currently some EPA activity related to noise—as described below.

Current Activities

A brief history of very early activities can be found on the EPA website (EPA, 2009a); there is also a section on frequently asked questions (EPA, 2009b). Current EPA activities related to noise include a revision of the current regulation on hearing protectors, implementation of a congressional earmark related to railroad noise, and a modest public information program.

The Shapiro Study

Even though funding for the EPA noise program was cut off in 1981, many regulatory actions are still “on the books,” and the laws have not been rescinded. EPA regulations still in place can be found in the Code of Federal Regulations (

In 1991 a critical analysis of the program was conducted by Sidney Shapiro on behalf of the Administrative Conference of the United States (ACUS); many of the conclusions of that report are on the Internet ( As of 1995, the ACUS no longer exists.

Because laws and regulations are still in place but adequate funding has not been provided for EPA to carry out its responsibilities, the situation regarding government

Suggested Citation:"8 The Role of Government." National Academy of Engineering. 2010. Technology for a Quieter America. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12928.

noise-related activities is complicated, especially with regard to preemption, which limits the ability of state and local governments to set noise emission standards. Among other things, the Shapiro report recommended that the following items be reviewed:

  • scientific and technical developments since 1981

  • the methodology for measurement and assessment of noise

  • the allocation of responsibility among federal agencies

  • federal participation in voluntary standards activities

To the committee’s knowledge, the full set of ACUS recommendations has never been accepted by EPA. Nevertheless, the recommendations are still valid.

Congressional Action

Several attempts have been made to reestablish ONAC at EPA. Bills were introduced into the 107th, 108th, and 109th Congresses, but Congress has taken no action.

U.S. Code

Sections in the U.S. Code on federal programs (42 USC 4903) and quiet communities, research, and public information (42 USC 65 4913) are important for the present study.1,2 These sections are reproduced in Appendix D, parts A and B, respectively. Portions are reprinted below:

Coordination of noise control activities of federal and state agencies. Section 4903 states: “(1) The Administrator shall coordinate the programs of all Federal agencies relating to noise research and noise control. Each Federal agency shall, upon request, furnish to the Administrator such information as he may reasonably require to determine the nature, scope, and results of the noise-research and noise-control programs of the agency.”

Portions of Section 4913, 24 USC 65. Section 4913 states: “… the Administrator shall, in cooperation with other Federal agencies and through the use of grants, contracts, and direct Federal actions…”

Cost-benefit analysis of noise control technologies. “… (4) investigation of the economic impact of noise on property and human activities…”

Public information on the benefits of low-noise products and the adverse effects of excessive noise: “…(a) develop and disseminate information and educational materials to all segments of the public on the public health and other effects of noise and the most effective means for noise control, through the use of materials for school curricula, volunteer organizations, radio and television programs, publication, and other means….”

Assistance to state and local community noise control programs: “(c) administer a nationwide Quiet Communities Program which shall include, but not be limited to … (1) grants to States, local governments, and authorized regional planning agencies for the purpose of …”

The Vér Proposal

In “Proposal for a Long Range Noise Control Policy Based on Cooperation Among Government, Industry and the Research Community,” Vér (1991) proposed that noise control research be jointly sponsored by the government and industry and trade associations. The former would ensure that the research topics are in line with long-range government noise policies. The latter would ensure that the research projects undertaken are relevant to the needs of industry and that the results are presented in a form and at a level most useful to design engineers.

Organizational Structure for Implementing a Noise Policy

None of the examples described above has an ideal organizational structure for implementing a comprehensive noise policy in the United States. Perhaps the JDPO model comes closest. However, each model has ideas worth considering.

A new organization to determine noise policy would require enabling legislation by Congress to provide authority and funding. The legislation would also have to rescind some of the responsibilities of the EPA under the U.S. Code. Such an organization should have the following characteristics. The organization should be supervised by a government agency or a consortium of agencies, but a lead agency would have to be identified for funding purposes. Assuming that several agencies would be tasked in the legislation to participate, a “senior policy committee” would be required to perform several tasks. These include preparation of a mission statement, a roadmap for future activities, and a work plan to implement the roadmap. Given the complexity of the noise problem and the wide variety of activities affected, it is likely that the organization would have to be organized as several divisions, each with a director and several working groups within each division. Participants in a working group would include both government and industry, and the working groups would be concerned with occupational noise; community noise, including annoyance issues; health effects of noise; and criteria for noise. Many of the policy recom-


42USC65 4903. The Public Health and Welfare, Chapter 65, Noise Control: Sec. 4903, Federal Programs. Available online at


42USC65 4913. The Public Health and Welfare, Chapter 65, Noise Control: Sec. 4913, Quiet communities, research, and public information. Available online at

Suggested Citation:"8 The Role of Government." National Academy of Engineering. 2010. Technology for a Quieter America. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12928.

mendations in this report could be considered by such an organization. However, it will take time for such an organization to be established, and many of the recommendations, especially concerning EPA, could be implemented now given funding by Congress.


In Chapters 5 and 7 of this report, the activities of state governments on controlling highway noise are described. Research and development of pavements designed to reduce tire/road interaction noise has been a cooperative effort with significant results.

Transportation systems are generally operated by state agencies (e.g., airport commissions, highway departments, commuter rail agencies), and residents and community leaders look to them to control noise from sources in their jurisdictions. However, Congress considers that “primary responsibility for control of noise rests with state and local governments [although] Federal action is essential to deal with major noise sources in commerce, control of which requires national uniformity of treatment.”3

Thus, state transportation agencies are caught in a bind. They are powerless to control noise directly from major transportation sources, such as airplanes, new motor vehicles, and railroads, yet citizens expect them to reduce noise that adversely affects them.

For federally funded projects, including transportation, state agencies are required to prepare environmental impact assessments before construction begins. These assessments must include the noise impact of proposed projects. Many states require similar assessments for major projects even when no federal funds are involved.

Many states have laws and regulations covering a variety of situations related to environmental noise and noise abatement in general. State laws and regulations may address noise from industrial plants, commercial facilities, and construction sites. The Noise Pollution Clearinghouse lists 12 states that have general noise regulations and nine that have watercraft noise regulations (; however, these lists and a survey of state regulations need to be updated.

Maine has a comprehensive well-written statute with regulations that have been described as the most complex in the country (Doyle, 2001). Connecticut and Illinois also have carefully written regulations (Brooks, 2001, 2003). A summary of New Jersey’s noise regulations and related activities has been published (Zwerling, 2005). Other states with comprehensive environmental noise regulations are California, Minnesota, and Oregon. The noise requirements in Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, and Oregon are administered in the general environmental permitting process.

Although there is no requirement that state noise regulations be identical, it would be helpful if requirements, including measurement procedures, were compatible from state to state. The absence of well-defined standards creates uncertainty in the minds of developers of industrial facilities and can cause delays in the approval process. Thus, most developers of industrial facilities would welcome consistent, well-written standards for noise emissions.4 EPA has a mandate to promote the development of effective state and local noise programs (42 USC 65, Section 4913) but is not currently funded to do so.


Control of noise at the local level presents several challenges. First, cities and towns in the United States have different needs. Second, many noise problems do not have engineering solutions. Third, local officials often do not have the information they need to find the best methods of solving local problems.

Some large cities do have the resources to study noise problems and issue appropriate regulations. New York City, for example, has a modern noise law (NYC, 2009a,b; Maling, 2007) which states that “the making, creation or maintenance of excessive and unreasonable and prohibited noises within the city affects and is a menace to public health, comfort, convenience, safety, welfare and the prosperity of the people of the city.” The new law mandates that all construction be conducted in accordance with individual noise mitigation plans and prescribes ways to lessen the noise from each type of construction equipment. The code also sets standards for noise levels created by handling containers and construction material on public streets and restricts the noise levels created by air conditioners and circulation devices. Some portions of the New York law may not be applicable to other large cities, but the law is a good starting point for upgrading existing laws or creating new ones. Chicago was one of the first cities to establish comprehensive regulations for noise from industrial and commercial facilities. Boston has adopted a comprehensive construction noise regulation as part of the Central Artery/Tunnel project; this regulation is also a model for other communities (Thalheimer, 2000; 2001).

Smaller cities, suburban towns, and rural villages have different problems. They rarely have the resources to make extensive use of professional advice in drafting local noise ordinances. Many towns and villages have common problems. At one time the EPA had a program called Each Community Helps Others (ECHO) that helped communities with common problems communicate with each other. Although


42 USC 65, Section 4901(a)(3). Congressional Findings and Statement of Policy re Chapter 65, The Public Health and Welfare. Available online at


Wood, E.W. 2005. Community noise from new industrial plants—engineering and regulatory challenges. Presentation at the NAE Technology for a Quieter America Workshop, Washington, D.C., September 13–15.

Suggested Citation:"8 The Role of Government." National Academy of Engineering. 2010. Technology for a Quieter America. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12928.

EPA produced a model noise ordinance in 1975, it is out of date today.

The American National Standards Institute’s Accredited Standards Committee S12 Noise is working to produce a standard with guidelines for developing community noise ordinances or regulations to inform communities (ANSI, 2009). The sponsor of this effort, the Acoustical Society of America (ASA) Committee on Standards S12 Working Group 41, has a draft document for comments from working group members before it is submitted for voting as an ANSI standard. If it is adopted, this standard will provide a menu of options to guide local communities in establishing enforceable, practical noise ordinances. The draft standard is expected to be voted on in 2010.

Thanks to corporate sponsorship, ASA has made ANSI S12.60 available for free download; this standard pertains to acoustics in classrooms (ASA, 2009). ASA would perform a public service if it could also provide free guidance on community noise ordinances.


The noise-related activities of many federal government agencies are described elsewhere in this report. With respect to the federal government, the emphasis in this chapter is on current mechanisms of federal interagency cooperation and the characteristics of a new organization that would require congressional action to create. Less emphasis has been placed on the role of state and local governments; these activities are difficult to describe briefly and, with the exception of work on highway pavement, do not generally involve technology. Under current law, there are opportunities for EPA to provide assistance to state and local governments, which could help in the coordination of noise-related activities.


Although EPA currently has a small program related to noise, the agency has the authority under the U.S. Code to do much more. It appears that if new tasks are assigned to another department in the federal government, the law will have to be changed. EPA, however, could carry out these tasks if Congress appropriated the necessary funds.

Of several models of federal cooperation related to noise activities, the existing model most suitable for a new organization in EPA is JPDO, which is involved in policy, R&D, and cooperation with industry. As noted by the Administrative Conference of the United States (see Shapiro, 1991) and reports by others, many items related to noise regulation could be addressed. Until these items are addressed, it will be difficult to make progress on noise control.

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) provides regular reports to Congress in a series titled Noise Abatement and Control: An Overview of Federal Standards and Regulations; in addition, three annual reports are available (CRS, 2000, 2003, 2006). CRS should be asked to prepare a new report to Congress outlining policy options and encouraging congressional action to develop a new noise policy.

Recommendation 8-1: The Environmental Protection Agency should carry out its coordinating function under 42 USC 65, Section 4903. The agencies with noise-related activities include the U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Department of Transportation, U.S. Department of Labor, U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the National Science Foundation.

Recommendation 8-2: Congress should pass legislation and provide the necessary funds to establish the Environmental Protection Agency as the lead agency in the development of a cooperative effort on noise measurement, abatement, and control involving federal agencies, state governments, industry, consulting firms, and academia. An EPA office should implement 42 USC 65, Section 4903, and the legislation should expand the authority already given by Congress to ensure that the agency can effectively manage a program to meet the following objectives:

  • coordination and cooperation among existing interagency groups concerned with noise

  • clear delineation of the roles of federal agencies, as well as state and local governments

  • assisting American industry in lowering noise levels in the U.S. workplace and developing industrial and consumer products with noise emissions that are competitive with foreign products

  • development of international standards for the measurement and labeling of noise emissions

  • active U.S. participation in the harmonization of noise emission requirements worldwide

  • development of metrics for environmental noise that truly represent community response to noise

  • ongoing assessment of the costs and benefits of noise control

  • increased research on the health effects of noise, especially nonauditory effects


ADC40 (Transportation Research Board Committee on Transportation Noise and Vibration). 2009. ADC40 Membership List. Available online at

ANSI (American National Standards Institute). 2009. Accredited Standards Committee S12, Noise. Working Group 41 (ANSI S12/WG41), Model Community Noise Ordinances. Available online at

ASA (Acoustical Society of America). 2009. American National Standard Acoustical Performance Criteria, Design Requirements, and Guidelines for Schools. Available online at

Brooks, B.M. 2001. The Need for a Unified Community Noise Policy. Proceedings of NOISE-CON 01, The 2001 National Conference on Noise

Suggested Citation:"8 The Role of Government." National Academy of Engineering. 2010. Technology for a Quieter America. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12928.

Control Engineering, Portland, Maine. Available online at

Brooks, B.M. 2003. The need for a unified community noise policy. Noise Control Engineering Journal 51(3):160–161.

CRS (Congressional Research Service). 2000. Noise Abatement and Control: An Overview of Federal Standards and Regulations. CRS Report for Congress by D.M. Bearden. Updated April 7, 2000. Available online at

CRS. 2003. Noise Abatement and Control: An Overview of Federal Standards and Regulations. CRS Report for Congress by D.M. Bearden. Updated January 13, 2003. Available online at

CRS. 2006. Noise Abatement and Control: An Overview of Federal Standards and Regulations. CRS Report for Congress by D.M. Bearden. January 23, 2006. Available online at

Doyle, T. 2001. Twelve years with the most complex noise regulations in the United States. Proceedings NOISE-CON 01, The 2001 National Conference on Noise Control Engineering, Portland, Maine. Available online at

EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency). 1974. Information on Levels of Environmental Noise Requisite to Protect Public Health and Welfare with an Adequate Margin of Safety. EPA Report 550/9-74-004. Washington, DC: Office of Noise Abatement and Control. Available online at

EPA. 1975. Model Community Noise Control Ordinance. Report EPA 550/9-76-003. Washington, DC: Office of Noise Abatement and Control. Available online at

EPA. 2009a. History: Noise Control Act. Available online at

EPA. 2009b. Frequent Questions: EPA Web Page on Noise. Available online at

FICON (Federal Interagency Committee on Noise). 1992. Federal Agency Review of Selected Airport Noise Analysis Issues. Available online at

Maling, G.C. 2003. An editor’s view of the EPA Noise Program. Noise Control Engineering Journal 51:143–150.

Maling, G.C. 2007. Pan-American news: New York noise code goes into effect. Noise/News International (Sept.):106–109. Available online at

NYC (New York City). 2009a. Local Laws of the City of New York for the Year 2005. No. 113. Available online at

NYC. 2009b. Air and Noise: Noise Code (Local Law 113 of 2005). Available online at

Shapiro, S.A. 1991. The Dormant Noise Control Act and Options to Abate Noise Pollution. Report for the Administrative Conference of the United States. Available online at

Thalheimer, E. 2001. Proactive Construction Noise Control Policies Developed for the Central Artery/Tunnel Project’s C17A6 Contract. Proceedings of NOISE-CON 01, The 2001 National Conference on Noise Control Engineering, Portland, Maine, October 29–31. Available online at

Thalheimer, E. 2000. Construction noise control program and mitigation strategy at the Central Artery/Tunnel project. Noise Control Engineering Journal 48(5):157–165.

Vér, István L. 1991. Proposal for a Long Range Noise Control Policy Based on Cooperation Among Government, Industry and the Research Community. Distinguished lecture presented at NOISE-CON 91 in Tarrytown, New York. Reprinted in Noise Control Engineering Journal 51(3):176–181. Available online at

Zwerling, E.M. 2005. Regulatory Scheme for Noise Enforcement in New Jersey. Proceedings of NOISE-CON 05, The 2005 National Conference on Noise Control Engineering. Minneapolis, MN, October 15–17. Available online at

Suggested Citation:"8 The Role of Government." National Academy of Engineering. 2010. Technology for a Quieter America. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12928.
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Suggested Citation:"8 The Role of Government." National Academy of Engineering. 2010. Technology for a Quieter America. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12928.
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Suggested Citation:"8 The Role of Government." National Academy of Engineering. 2010. Technology for a Quieter America. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12928.
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Suggested Citation:"8 The Role of Government." National Academy of Engineering. 2010. Technology for a Quieter America. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12928.
Page 119
Suggested Citation:"8 The Role of Government." National Academy of Engineering. 2010. Technology for a Quieter America. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12928.
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 Technology for a Quieter America
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Exposure to noise at home, at work, while traveling, and during leisure activities is a fact of life for all Americans. At times noise can be loud enough to damage hearing, and at lower levels it can disrupt normal living, affect sleep patterns, affect our ability to concentrate at work, interfere with outdoor recreational activities, and, in some cases, interfere with communications and even cause accidents. Clearly, exposure to excessive noise can affect our quality of life.

As the population of the United States and, indeed, the world increases and developing countries become more industrialized, problems of noise are likely to become more pervasive and lower the quality of life for everyone. Efforts to manage noise exposures, to design quieter buildings, products, equipment, and transportation vehicles, and to provide a regulatory environment that facilitates adequate, cost-effective, sustainable noise controls require our immediate attention.

Technology for a Quieter America looks at the most commonly identified sources of noise, how they are characterized, and efforts that have been made to reduce noise emissions and experiences. The book also reviews the standards and regulations that govern noise levels and the federal, state, and local agencies that regulate noise for the benefit, safety, and wellness of society at large. In addition, it presents the cost-benefit trade-offs between efforts to mitigate noise and the improvements they achieve, information sources available to the public on the dimensions of noise problems and their mitigation, and the need to educate professionals who can deal with these issues.

Noise emissions are an issue in industry, in communities, in buildings, and during leisure activities. As such, Technology for a Quieter America will appeal to a wide range of stakeholders: the engineering community; the public; government at the federal, state, and local levels; private industry; labor unions; and nonprofit organizations. Implementation of the recommendations in Technology for a Quieter America will result in reduction of the noise levels to which Americans are exposed and will improve the ability of American industry to compete in world markets paying increasing attention to the noise emissions of products.


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