"The regional EPA is functioning
as a political lobbying arm
for a group of anti-runway activists."
-- Massport Public Relations
''Anyone suggesting that the EPA
is doing this on behalf of an outside
advocacy agency is making something
into a political fight when it ought not to be.''
-- Environmental Protection Agency
To read more about Runway 14/32 and the South Boston waterfront, click here.
This story ran on page B02 of the Boston Globe on 11/22/2000.
© Copyright 2000 Globe Newspaper Company.
EPA says Massport thwarting key panel
Official: Process keeping advisory group from finding Logan solution
By Matthew Brelis, Globe Staff, 11/22/2000
The work of a frequently polarized panel that has met for much of the year to discuss the need for a controversial proposed runway at Boston's Logan International Airport is being thwarted by the Massachusetts Port Authority, according to the regional administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.
The panel has two more meetings scheduled before the writing of a draft supplemental environmental impact statement kicks into high gear. The ability of the panel to work successfully will ultimately be judged by the draft report that is expected early next year. A final report, after public comment, is not expected until late next spring.
But in a 61/2-page letter to Vincent Scarano, the regional airports manager for the Federal Aviation Administration and chair of the runway panel, Mindy Lubber, the EPA regional administrator said much more work needs to be done.
''We have hoped, as you have, that the advisory panel process would be a springboard for objective analyses that bring a new perspective to the two central questions in this case - whether the runway is the best long term solution to delay at Logan; and whether the airport's current and projected impacts have been adequately understood, publicly disclosed and mitigated.
''Regrettably,'' Lubber wrote to Scarano on Nov. 9, ''most of the past ten months have instead been consumed by Massport's consultants preparing and presenting detailed lectures on why they believe their original analyses supporting the runway were correct, thereby delaying new analyses with a different perspective.''
Scarano said he did not want to comment on the process in the meetings until they are complete - the last two are scheduled for Monday and Dec. 4 - but said the FAA wanted to work with the EPA and valued the input received in the letter.
Under federal regulations, the FAA, not the EPA, will be the federal agency that gives permission, in the form of a record of decision, for the runway to proceed. Massport, however, must go to state court to have an injunction lifted before it could begin any airfield construction. At that time, the EPA could let its concerns be known to the judge.
Yesterday, Massport spokesman Jose Juves reacted strongly to Lubber's letter, saying: ''This runway will end up being the most analyzed 5,000 feet of pavement anywhere in the US. The regional EPA is functioning as a political lobbying arm for a group of anti-runway activists.''
Lubber said yesterday that ''for anyone to suggest that the EPA is doing anything other than its job has perhaps not read the letter. Our job is not to be an advocate for an outside organization, but to take an objective look at all kinds of projects.
''Anyone suggesting that the EPA is doing this on behalf of an outside advocacy agency is making something into a political fight when it ought not to be,'' Lubber said.
But politics have been at the heart of much of the panel's work since it was created by FAA administrator Jane Garvey to try to address lingering concerns over the need for the 5,000-foot runway and its effects on limiting delays at Logan Airport. Three members were appointed by Governor Paul Cellucci, who favors the runway, and three were selected by Mayor Thomas M. Menino, who opposes it.
Garvey's marching orders to the panel included the request that each side consider that the position of the opponents might be the correct one. At several of the meetings held so far, that has been an elusive goal.
EMC Corp. chairman Richard Egan, appointed to the panel by Cellucci, has introduced himself at meetings as ''Darth Vadar'' and has expressed his views several times that the runway is needed and has pointed to the draft environmental report - the one that prompted Garvey to point to the need for more study - as the foundation for that belief.
Conversely, some runway proponents assert privately that the mayoral appointees want to put the project into permanent limbo by asking for study after study.
Some mayoral appointees and community groups had wanted independent consultants to help them wade through the arguments for the runway.
Lubber's letter said ''Massport's decision not to expand the technical assistance to the Community Advisory Committee has also caused delay in the ability of the CAC to propose ideas for further analysis.''
The CAC, a group of representatives from neighborhoods affected by Logan, had requested money for a consultant early on in the process, but Massport did not give the group funds until August.
''There have been many requests by mayoral panelists for additional information and analysis and nothing has been forthcoming,'' said Anastasia Lyman, co-chair of the CAC.
''There is polarization because the FAA and Massport keep saying there is an absolute need for this runway, and they are bringing nothing new as an alternative for the runway. There is nothing creative for anyone outside the box to consider,'' she said.
But Mary Ellen Welch, a mayoral appointee, said: ''I think the FAA is trying very hard to make it a genuine research process where other options ... are being evaluated and looked at. Vince Scarano is very open to examining new options.''
The FAA has agreed to review several issues brought up in panel meetings, including pursuing alternative strategies to reduce delays including peak period pricing; giving larger planes preference rather than the current first-come first-served approach; expanding a regional analysis; and reviewing changes in airline scheduling at Logan to determine what markets have changed the airport's demand profile in recent years.
The EPA would like the FAA to consider, among other things, alternatives to building a runway by studying a long-term regionwide multi-modal transportation strategy, and alternative ways to reduce delays at Logan by operating the airport more efficiently by reducing, for example, the number of small commuter flights.
There are some issues, however, that the FAA will not study.
In an effort to understand some of the regional issues, the panel has visited airports in Manchester, N.H., and Providence that have seen much faster growth in recent years than Logan has.
''Managers at both of those airports we visited thought Logan should have the runway, but they both complained about the fact that Massport won't let buses go from Logan commuter stops to their airports,'' said state Representative Byron Rushing (D-South End), a mayoral appointee. ''I think there are things like that that Massport should do, but they have a different attitude with airports they run, like Hanscom and Worcester. Can you have regionalization with different owners, or do you need to have something like the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey?''
Massport's Juves said the authority is in talks with Manchester to start bus service to the airport from a Woburn facility. Juves also noted Massport spent $80,000 this year advertising the airports in Providence and Manchester.
Spending money to advertise an out-of-state airport is unheard of, and earned praise from one industry leader.
''Massport has taken an enlightened approach,'' said Herb Kelleher, chairman and chief executive of Southwest Airlines, in a recent interview. Southwest flies to both Providence and Manchester, but will not fly out of Logan because it is too congested. ''Most other airports don't talk about serving regional airports and [Massport is] encouraging people to use Providence and Manchester and Worcester.''
This story ran on page C01 of the Boston Globe on 11/22/2000.
© Copyright 2000 Globe Newspaper Company.
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