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MAC Committee Hears Pollution Report; Refers SMAAC Questions to Staff for Answers

The Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) Finance, Development and Environment (FDE) Committee heard a staff report summarizing activities dealing with two environmental stipulation agreements (enforcement actions). MAC paid civil fines and was directed to do remedial work along with airlines and other airport entities because of excessive glycol emissions and fuel leaks.

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Letter to MAC

Finance, Development, and Environment Committee Electronically transmitted June 7. 2005
6040 28th Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55450

Dear Chair McGee and Commissioners:

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Senator Dayton Charges MAC and Northwest Airlines with Bad Faith

U.S. Senator Mark Dayton has charged the Metropolitan Airports Commission and Northwest Airlines with bad faith in negotiations for noise insulation for homes in the new 64-60 DNL noise zone around Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

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City Lawsuits Over Airport Noise Lauded

The South Metro Airport Action Council (SMAAC) applauds the legal actions being undertaken by cities around Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP) over noise.

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MAC Committee Approves Fuel Leaks Settlement and Fine

But Denies Fault; Avoids Re-opening Botched Environment Hearing.

In carefully separated actions on closely related topics, a Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) Committee agreed Wednesday to: pay millions of dollars in fines, remedial actions, and clean-up costs for fuel leaks after an investigation initiated by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA); and, adjust an environmental hearing report to the Minnesota Environmental Quality Board (EQB) by admitting the report as filed was based on an erroneous record of testimony.

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Commentary January 10, 2005

The following article is based on comments sent to Minneapolis Star-Tribune reporters and editors following the newspaper's Special Report published 10 January 2005. See:

  • Page 1A THE HUB: A COSTLY BLESSING
  • Page 1A Northwest‚s local dominance carries benefits, but (local business) travelers pay for them with higher fares, studies show. By Mike Meyers.
  • Page 1A (cont‚d 9A) Expansion proposal puts added pressure on MAC members. By Dan Wascoe.
  • Page 9A Airfare studies wrong, Northwest says. By Mike Meyers.
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Remarks to the Eden Prairie Zero Expansion Group

SMAAC's relations with the Metropolitan Airport Commission (MAC) since Vicki Tigwell (formerly Grunseth) was appointed Chair have been bumpy. "Our efforts to testify on noise and environmental issues, never made easy under MAC policies, are not welcomed by Ms. Tigwell," SMAAC Board Chair Jim Spensley said today. "What was reluctance to admit citizens' groups might have a different and helpful perspective has morphed into an unreasonable fear of adverse publicity. Our questions are cut-off at their meetings; our comments misreported in their Minutes; written submissions are delayed, re-cast or lost."

Spensley spoke before the Zero Growth group about the environmental implications of MAC's plans for changes at Flying Cloud Airport. Using the recent news reports that MPCA was investigating how over 40,000 gallons of fuel was "leaked" into ground water at MSP (that went unreported by MAC for many months) as an example, he said that an airport has copious quantities of dangerous and toxic substances on hand and always risks pollution. Plans for containing leaks and spills and recovering the chemicals (or cleaning up) should be rigorous in the (improvement) program.

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Watchdog Group: MAC Fudges Noise Projections in Eagan Meetings

Over 100 citizens turned out at the Blackhawk Middle School in Eagan to hear a Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) noise presentation. The meeting was one of several planned by the City of Eagan, the area perhaps to be most-impacted by opening new Runway 17-35 at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP). The citizens were not amused by the prospects.

One citizens found the MAC presentation “Condescending as well as misleading.” SMAAC noted several errors in the twenty-minute presentation by a MAC spokesperson. One graphic reminded the audience that the Legislature “mandated” a 25% increase in MSP “capacity, requiring a new runway.”

Sure, blame the Legislature for the increased overflights. Not mentioned: Use of MSP increased 34% 1995 to 2004, although new runway construction must have limited use somewhat and the terrorist attacks in September 2001 reduced demand for awhile. This reflects more hub use as Northwest gained gates.

MAC said that aircraft noise over the school will be comparable to noise at recording stations “equidistant” from the airport as shown by concentric circles drawn on a map of MSP and the surrounding neighborhoods. Not mentioned: 2002 traffic, or current traffic, over any of the 30-some stations is not representative of traffic patterns or noise after Runway 17-35 opens next year. SMAAC notes that in the possibly intended sense that event noise – a single overflight – is representative for similar aircraft on projected tracks directly overhead, an steady increase in over-95 dbA events has occurred since 1996 at most stations.

MAC said that Runway 17 departures would be routed to the West over the Minnesota River as much as possible, especially at night, to reduce noise in Eagan. One citizen asked for clarification, noting that school was not ordinarily conducted in the building after 10 PM. It turned out that about 1% of Runway 17-35 use was planned for the River valley departure (2% of take-offs). The MAC spokesman denied any knowledge of studies of how airport noise affects traditional classroom education. SMAAC notes that numerous studies show an adverse effect, notably the multi-year (longitudinal) studies in Munich, Germany. At projected 2007 levels, there would be 950 flights per day over Eagan.

MAC said that a “normal conversation, about 65 db intensity, was comparable to aircraft noise at the 65 DNL (average noise) contour.” One citizen objected, remarking that most Eagan residents had a college education and understood hearing was on a log scale. SMAAC notes that sound intensity during multiple conversations in a room may vary between 63 db and 67 db, just over 65 db average intensity; overflight noise varies from 3 db to 95 db to 3 db as the aircraft passes over a station, yielding a 65 db “average” only when the event time base is a certain value (or the threshold levels are set accordingly).

MAC also fumbled the answer to how flight tracks were projected. The spokesman said that operations were based on air traffic management plans and runway use systems adopted by FAA. SMAAC notes that FAA plans are still pending. The noise contours were developed using a computer model and based on simplified and assumptive inputs developed by HNTB, a consulting firm contracted by the MAC. HNTB was limited by the scope of its contract and was directed to use projections furnished to MAC by the airlines. The safety and feasibility of these plans are yet to be reviewed by FAA. Besides, MAC begins next month to change operations, again increasing hub use of MSP.

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