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.

The Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) hasn’t yet dealt with overflight issues first raised in 2010.  The FAA runway use percentage goals, flight route and profile changes that caused thousands of new complaints of lower, noisier and likely more polluting overflights have been discussed only as a minor noise mitigation detail.  

“The MAC has the incorrect idea that a noise contour map measures something that predicts harm to the environment or increased health risks or poor school performance that can be treated.” SMAAC President Jim Spensley said.

“The truth is that flight operations that emit more pollutants and cause more noise disturbance can and ought to be limited.

“The 2035 noise contour map to be discussed later this year as part of the MSP Long-Term Comprehensive Plan update could be used, along with 2015 flight data and FAA flight-planning tools, to suggest alternatives that not only reduce ground noise but also mesh with fuel-saving operations consistent with the FAA/EPA findings on green-house gas emissions.  The strained and illogical findings of no significant environmental impacts from lower flights for the last 5 or 6 years, however, are being repeated.”

SMAAC testified each year since 2010 that routes and profiles had changed, always questioning why MAC took no action to reduce overflight noise and pollution. The MAC always took the position that overflights were no noisier on average. MAC Staff prepared documents arguing that the World Health Organization warning that health risks were higher near airports was wrong and the NTSB warning about converging runways did not apply to MSP. 

The 2015 AOEE    findings are contrary to observations of overflights, runway use and profiles. The environmental impacts lack appropriate investigation and the Capital Improvement Plan postpones projects needed for planned peak-hour operational rates this year and next year.  Most noise, air pollution and other health and environmental impacts are a result of overflights, and current and reliable assessments of these impacts are needed, but missing. 

References to prior environmental reviews that also resulted in a Finding of No Significant Impacts are misleading. Several prior noise assessments were based on models that did not include flight profiles and applied to annual operations per runway during years with frequent significant changes in runway use, routes, and rates of ascent and descent during the year. 

The extension of this modeling to 2015 over 2014 is the stated plan of the MAC for noise impacts; the best engineering practice would be base year 2009, target-year, 2016. 

Previous AOEEs reported no accumulations of pollutants on land or affecting water quality, but no investigative effort was reported by MAC since 1995.  MAC staff claimed to monitor air and water quality studies in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014. The monitoring was an annual Memo to the Noise Oversight Committee, who’s Co-Chair denies NOCs authority or interest in air pollution. In the absence of local studies, the best engineering practice would be comparison with similar airports where studies were completed.

 

 


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  • Alexia Salgado
    commented 2016-03-28 16:21:04 -0500
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  • Forum Manager
    commented 2015-12-25 17:30:32 -0600
    On December 22, the Full Commission agreed with its Staff recommendations that no environmental reviews of 2016 Capital projects or of the cumulative effects of operations were required by law. It’s interesting that in a letter announcing the action, the MAC Environmental Director rendered this as “no environmental reviews needed.” This was not an innocent slip of the tongue.
    That MSP routes and runway use which could change the distribution of noise and the doses of pollutants are pending was not mentioned. The ‘updated’ noise exposure map based on runway use for six months will not show any changes of note as use (flight operations) increases over the next decade. But it will be presented in the LTCP as proof that the forecasted use is likely, safe, and has no environmental or economic impacts.