The Airports Commission is required by Minnesota law to annually hold a Public Hearing to take testimony about the cumulative environmental effects of capital improvements at Metro airports. The Hearing was convened Wednesday with the entire Finance, Development, and Environment Committee as Hearing Examiner.
Testimony consisted of a Consultant‚s Report recapitulating the construction projects being considered for 2007 and up to 2013. The 7-year period may be a throwback to the dual-track studies, as it doesn‚t coincide with other cycles. SMAAC President Jim Spensley testified that the public and other governmental units are not reassured about environmental risks at MSP. Past Hearings produced a sparse record that presented no data about properties adjacent or downstream to MAC sites, and no testimony by landowners or responsible environmental agencies.
"We suggest that the environmental effects Hearing is too separate from review of the proposed capital projects," Spensley, a former Watershed District Manager, said, "and testimony on the environmental impacts at this Hearing is too limited compared to the usual processes of permit applications and EAW decisions on a project basis."
He noted that the Environmental Quality Board ruled that Petitions for an Environmental Assessment Worksheet (EAW) on any project (or operation) were not foreclosed by the Findings of this Hearing. Landowners and the general public may petition for preparation of an EAW for a specific project. As examples SMAAC mentioned the $17 million Runway Re-Paving Project and extending the high-pressure fuel system to hydrants at new gates. The Consultant‚s report did not raise the issue of air and water pollution during construction, such as erosion control and drainage modifications. The Consultant's report said that the runway paving project has no "... cumulative, long-term effects."
"That is ridiculous by watershed standards," Spensley said. "If there should be a storm event during re-paving when loose and potentially contaminated soils are exposed, then what?"
According to SMAAC, limited documentation and discussion on the Record raises doubt about the validity of the Hearing Officer‚s Findings . Commissioner Mike Landy said that he had noted the comments that glycol (MPOD5 contamination) lost from de-icing operations was under an NPDES permit.
"You say that glycol is also carried off of the airport on aircraft." Landy asked "What do you suggest can be done about that?"
"Three things:" Spensley replied. "MAC could keep records of the de-icing fluid dispensed and that recovered by the recycling system. By also measuring the emissions under the NPDES permit, the amount missing could be estimated. That would better size the problem. Second, that same data could drive improvements to de-icing and fluid recovery systems. Finally, if losses are unavoidable but regulated, MAC could more often limit flight operations under severe icing conditions."