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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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Doing a Public Hearing Publically

SMAAC has been pushing the Metropolitan Airports Commission to investigate MSP noise and air pollution for several years.  In 2010, the World Health Organization warned airports that overflights inceased health risks. 

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Issues at MSP Reflect National Airspace System Issues

Executive Summary: NextGen was planned in 2007 for en route surveillance and route expansion for the National Airspace System (NAS). In 2005 there were about 70 hub airports where banks of 50 or more aircraft were scheduled by affiliated airlines to arrive and depart within the same hour or so.

The basic NextGen idea was to "extend" US airspace for flights that self-navigated from city to city.  Using radar transponders to extend radar coverage already surveilled more airspace in 2007 than the pre-70’s radar systems. The transponders encode aircraft ID data in position responses, allowing air traffic controllers to guide more aircraft safely using computer-generated sector displays.  However, the Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) and airport implications for more arrivals per hour from more directions were seriously under-estimated.

Since February 2011, the South Metro Airport Action Council (SMAAC) has been communicating directly with FAA policy-makers about technologies planned for Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP).  Congressman Keith Ellison (D-MN5) was instrumental in opening this channel.


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We pay the big airlines to annoy us, poison us, and provide poor service.

A recent Wall Street Journal analysis of airline and government data reportedly showed that “Domestic airfares at the busiest U.S. airports were increased less than 1%, on average from 2007 to 2014."  

Average fares about the same?  I doubt it. The airlines are the sole source of the fares offered, the seat-miles used, the traveling hours, and 'deals.' The 'averages' are constructed using smoke and mirrors. There are few government airfare reports. Advertised fares are a misleading mishmash of options. Year-over-year from 2011 to 2015 airlines' expenses are up a little, revenues and profits are up a lot, and the number of flights operated and passengers transported are level or down.

This idea that airlines are holding fares and profits steady is ridiculous. The fallacy is that an “average fare” isn’t easily determined or uniformly defined. Routes and schedules are not comparable, airline-to-airline, day-to-day or city-to-city, to the regulated fares in the 1970’s or to the domestic system as it was in 2007.

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FAA Reduces MSP Operations per hour

As you know, SMAAC has been advocating for a maximum MSP operations hour of 120 to 130, for three reasons: lower costs, less safety risk, and some noise and pollution reduction.

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MSP Plans "Hated"

 Regarding Kevin Terrell’s very useful Opinion piece (Star-Tribune August 23rd).  He was absolutely correct: local travelers who are paying for it and citizens who are living with it “hate” the MSP 2035 plan; also the 2020, 2025, and 2030 MSP expansion plans.  The economic and environmental difficulties ahead were mislaid while MAC and the Met Council were making the plans.

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Reminder: MAC meeting August 27th

Various groups are mobilizing concerned citizens to attend the "Pre-draft 2030 Plan for MSP" presentation:



             Thursday, August 27, 2015
                      5:00 to 8:30 PM
                  MAC General Offices
                6040-28th Avenue South
                Minneapolis, MN 55450

The MAC sent an email notice just today.  It announced that 

The purpose of this meeting is to educate and inform the public of the LTCP purpose and process prior to publication of the draft document. 

In other words, no questions, no protests, no impatience -- just take it all in and be happy with high fares, more noise, and no meaningful environmental reviews. The message repeats that projections and forecasts have been prepared through a consultant.  The purpose of the LTCP is to identify facility needs, based on already-forecasted numbers?  What then is the purpose of the meeting other than to discourage citizens and organizations from complianing about overflight noise and pollution increases implicit in the plan for both more and larger aircraft using MSP.

While it is in fact very difficult to project anything 20 years ahead, SMAAC has asked for details and an open discussion.  The planning process cannot be transparent if the sources used for the forecasts and the airline plans are not evaluated realistically in public meetings.

Planning future use of MSP from projections by incumbent for-profit airlines in various stages of negotiatons with the MAC for the next 20 years seems a bit foolish.

SMAAC notes that the planned capacity for MSP in 2020 was based on State economic growth needs and trends in demographic and employment data.  Current operations are significantly different than the plans approved in the FEIS for MSP Expansion for the period 2005 to 2020..


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