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Lawsuits Challenge Airport Route Changes

SMAAC responded to a post at Aviation Watch saying that FAA’s sweeping NextGen program for LAX and Southern California, adds 99 new routes.

Culver City and Newport Beach lawsuits are part of a growing number of legal challenges around the country that dispute the
findings of the environmental review for "Metroplexes". Cases are pending in Boston, New York, Phoenix and the Bay Area.

The complaintants focus on environmental and public health impacts and neglect the costs of safety and airport "surge" capacity.  

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Forum on MSP Air Traffic June 16th Announced

US Rep. Rick Nolen, MN-8, a Member of the House Transportation Committee and Aviation Subcommittee, will address National Airspace System and Next Gen (Air Traffic Control) plans and progress as they affect MSP.
Since 2011, FAA at MSP several times changed ATC procedures to manage aircraft in flight more safely. The changes caused more health-risk and environmental harm per flight, resulting in hundreds of complaints and a flurry of protests at MAC meetings.
In July last year. an FAA Converging Runway Operations Order was issued suspending arrivals on R35 during busy hours. Since then, MSP has been working around the suspensions. Modest plans to restore some R35 arrivals at peak hours were rejected as increasing safety risks. In fact, MSP was directed to re-consider runway use and how operations were synchronized.
SMAAC told the Metopolitan Airports Commission: Unless peak-hour schedules are reduced, peak-hour operations over 140 ops/hour would be dicey, even if NextGen and PBN/NAV routes were deployed. Apparently we were correct.  Also, evolving safety, noise, and pollution standards --and the cost of complying systems and facilities improvements --made the gain from re-routing after the the 2010 near-miss unaffordable in the long-run. The postponed Met Council public hearing on MSP long-term needs and plans should not be delayed further; instead, a plan to limit operations per hour --at least until more is known about technology deployment -- ought the be the plan.
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Busy Hubs Reduce Air Quality

It is difficult to determine (or prove) how much overflights decrease air quality because the standards and measurement protocols are outdated. It is known that commercial jet overflights create and spread submicron particulates and greenhouse gases.

 The World Health Organization issued (2012) a warning that numerous epidemiological studies showed that health risks and mortality are steeply increased for 10 miles around busy jet airports. The warning discounted annual daily average noise intensity (DNL) as the direct cause. 

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An Open Letter to the Metropolitan Council

Situation Summary: The Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) drafted an Update to the MSP Long-Term Comprehensive Plan (LTCP) last Fall as required by State law. The document was released for comment in “pre-draft form” on August 27, 2015. The MAC announced that the purpose was to identify facility needs based on MAC-forecasted numbers of passengers and aircraft operations at MSP for 2015 to 2035. The Met Council should note that the MAC adopted a forecast in advance and did not allow questions about it. The annual passenger forecast is not consistent with State economic or demographic projections.

Millions of dollars of public investment over the next several years is proceeding at MSP without Met Council review.  MAC based its Capital Improvement Plan on the forecast. which is quite a bit different than approved in the 2010 Update. 

Since July 2015, runway use intervals have been increased (fewer operations per hour) by the Converging Runway Operations (CRO) Order suspending arrivals on Runway 35 for safety when R30L was being used for departures. After the near-mid-air collision (September 2010), the FAA MSP Air Traffic Control Tower modifiedmoperations at MSP. From a LTCP perspective, neither the econmic need for more operations per hour nor the facilities that seem to be needed have been reviewed.

 For example, the MAC delayed the construction of taxiway bridges until projected daily use of MSP would require faster trips on average from gate to runway; SMAAC noted that more flights per hour, particularly  when arrivals were scheduled on 3 runways and departures limited to 2 runways, stressed ground movements as much or more.


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Why we need an MSP Flight Cap

After the September 2010 near-mid-air-collision, our recommendation became specific: louder turning departures may be somewhat safer, but the unneeded additional flight capacity is overly expensive. The result is an unnecessary and unwise increase in noise and pollution. 

In July 2010, we asked the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) to seriously consider the World Health Organization (WHO) warning about increased health risks near busy airports. Our observation was that “busy” and “near” applied clearly to the MSP urban site and its use as a major hub. Federal law actually requires that lower cost alternatives be considered, and a cap on hourly rates of 130 or so operations at MSP until Next Gen deployment and 140 or so afterward would allow a per flight reduction in noise and pollution. .

The WHO found that health risks do not correlate with DNL contours. So, either the overflight risks to the over-flown populations are not “mitigated” by sound insulation, air conditioning, or better windows, or the maps are inaccurate, or both.  The noise exposure changes were widely complained about, and complaints increased again in 2011-12 by the runway-by-destination changes and additional departure headings. In two reviews, improperly modeled noise contours[1] were used to claim that the changed routes did not “increase (total DNL) noise compared with 2009 or 2004 operations.”


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No Progress on MSP Noise and Pollution

On December 7, the MAC PDE Committee, without any public discussion, recommended that the Full Commission approve the 2015 Assessment of Environmental Effects Report, a “Finding” of no “significant impacts” in 2015, cumulative since 2005, or probable in the next few years. The “Hearing Examiners’ Report” was prepared in advance of the hearing by MAC Staff.

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The Smart Way to Reduce Health-threatening Air Pollution From MSP Overflights

The smart way to reduce air pollution impacts around MSP is to limit operations per hour to allow ascents and descents using less fuel and reduce hours per day that neighborhoods are overflown below 5000 feet.  Hourly operation limits are a smarter move to decrease noise impacts and the air traffic control and facilities costs at MSP. 

Life and Breath: How air pollution affects public health in the Twin Cities, a 2015 Report by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) and Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), found ozone and fine particulates air pollution here increased mortality and health issues.

The Study does not differentiate the compounds or elements forming fine particulate matter, but a map shows the highest particulate concentrations center on MSP and extend south and southeast to the Minnesota River, as would expected from prevailing winds with MSP runway operations as the source.  Fine particulates (2.5 micron or less) are implicated as a cause of more mortality and health risks/health care costs by relative concentrations.


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Summary of Testimony for the MSP 2016-2022 Environmental Review

The South Metro Airport Action Council (SMAAC) reminded the MAC of many requests to include atmospheric pollution in its Annual Environmental Effects (AOEE) Report, EA Worksheets, and its Annual Report to the Legislature.  The Draft AOEE Report lacks even a space-holder for air or water pollution topics.  The proposed CIP has some boilerplate about managing pollution during construction or subsequent use of facilities on the airport property. 

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