Legislation is pending before the Senate that would alter the long-standing slot and perimeter rules for Ronald Reagan National Airport. The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments is urging lawmakers to defeat this bill, and its position is unwavering, bipartisan and unanimous.

The slot and perimeter rules are important operational tools that benefit both air passengers and the environment. The perimeter rule requires all scheduled airline flights from Reagan National to land within 1,250 miles; the slot rule limits the number of daily flights to and from the airport.

Sen. John McCain's bill would add 48 slots at Reagan National and remove the perimeter rule, which would have a negative effect on the quality of life in the region. For example, the bill would:

Overturn practices that help ensure safety and mitigate adverse environmental impacts such as noise and air pollution.

Affect safety, notwithstanding the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) assertions to the contrary. The flight paths to and from Reagan National's two main runways are difficult, and the region's airways already are congested.

Upset the economic balance this area has struck between Reagan National and Dulles and also affect service patterns at Baltimore-Washington International Airport. The present economic balance provides excellent air service between the nation's capital and both small and large domestic markets.

Eliminate the perimeter rule, which likely would result in curtailed flights to important smaller economic markets within the perimeter.

Affect long-range planning and development at Dulles.

Congress delegated management responsibilities of Reagan National and Dulles to the Washington Metropolitan Airports Authority more than 10 years ago. Since that time, with minimal federal oversight, these airports have provided exceptional national and international air service. Federal legislation altering the existing slot and perimeter rules at Reagan National is unnecessary and violates the spirit of regional authority. Congress should respect our region's local governments and the values that have been central to the Washington metropolitan region's planned growth.

-- Barbara Favola

chairs the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments' Committee on Noise Abatement at Reagan National and Dulles Airports and is vice chairman of the Arlington County Board.