The Massachusetts Port Authority (Massport), buoyed by the support of the Boston Chamber of Commerce, the Boston Convention Center Authority and a number of ad-hoc business and tourism advocacy groups lobbying for State and Federal support, continues in its quest to expand with the addition of Runway 14/32. As indicated in today's Boston Globe, the airport is already ranked as the 6th worst smog producer in the state (see below).

SAND has joined with a number of community groups in opposition to the expansion of Logan Airport and the development of Runway 14/32. According to Massport's own projections, Runway 14/32 would enable the capacity of departures off existing Runway 27 to triple from 18,000 flights to nearly 56,000 flights per year. Runway 27 departures are directed within a few hundred yards above the South Boston waterfront -- an area seen as an important future neighborhood of the City of Boston. Runway 27 departures also impact the Fort Point and Andrews Square neighborhoods of South Boston, neighborhoods in Boston's South End, Dorchester, Roxbury and Jamaica Plain.

This story ran on page A01 of the Boston Globe on 3/10/2001.
© Copyright 2001 Globe Newspaper Company.

Logan seen emerging as top polluter
Airport is now state's 6th-worst smog producer

By Beth Daley, Globe Staff, 3/10/2001

With almost no public notice, Logan Airport is quickly emerging as one of the state's single greatest contributors to summertime smog and is expected to top the list within the decade, a top state official says.

Environmentalists' attention has been riveted on cleaning up pollutants spewed out by Massachusetts' oldest and dirtiest power plants, derisively labeled ''the Filthy Five.'' But jets at Logan are emitting tons of nitrogen oxides every year, a key ingredient in both smog, which aggravates asthma, and acid rain, which harms trees and wildlife.

Already, the airport ranks sixth on the list of the worst emitters of smog. But state Environmental Affairs Secretary Robert Durand predicts Logan will rank number one by 2010 as the airport grows and regulators crack down on the old power plants.

''It's probably going to be the largest single source, and we're working now with Massport to figure out ways to reduce those gases,'' said Durand. ''The auto industry, the business community, and homeowners have to take steps to reduce emissions, and the one industry that has gotten the free ride is the airline industry.''

By the end of this month, Massport, which runs the airport, will submit a plan to the state to reduce the emission of nitrogen oxides, often called NOx. While jets are by far the worst offenders, cars, rental vans, airline baggage trucks, and other vehicles also spew NOx into the air. Massport officials did not release details of the plan yesterday, but said they are committed to reducing the emissions at Logan in both airplanes and ground vehicles.

The news doesn't come without irony for residents who live near the airport. After years of complaining about noisy jets, they are getting quieter ones - but it turns out the engines in those planes were redesigned to release more NOx.

''We spent all our time on the noise issue and it turns out we closed our eyes to the bigger problem - the air,'' said Gail Miller of East Boston, a community activist. ''But I'd rather be deaf than not have clean air.''

It's not that environmental and Massport officials have ignored airport pollution. But they've largely focused on cars, buses, and trucks because their NOx emissions are easier to control than the hundreds of jets that fly in and out every day.

As airports become more congested, however, their pollution patterns are becoming similar to power plants' - both spew a concentrated amount of pollutants into the air. While a variety of gases and particles is released at Logan, nitrogen oxides are increasing the fastest.

Air pollution concerns at Logan couldn't come at a worse time for airport officials, who are trying to get approval for a fifth runway to ease congestion. Still, adding that runway will cut down on air pollution, contends Betty Desrosiers, Massport's director of aviation planning, because planes would not be idling as long as they do now before taking off.

''NOx concerns us, and we are working hard to reduce them,'' Desrosiers said. While Logan's NOx production is far from ideal, she said, it still represents less than 2 percent of what all Greater Boston emits - mostly from vehicles.

Durand would like Massport to charge higher landing fees to jets that emit more NOx, a proposal already in practice at the airport in Zurich now.

''There need to be incentives on the ground'' to get airlines ''to look at these issues,'' Durand said. ''The challenge for us is to create those incentives.''

Airline officials were unavailable for comment yesterday evening.

Massport officials said charging the worst-polluting planes higher landing fees may be difficult. They said the higher fees have failed to reduce NOx in some overseas airports, and landing fees are such a tiny part of an airline's total cost in the United States that the financial incentive may not be there for airlines to use reengineered planes.

Exactly how to solve the NOx problem is not Logan's alone. Around the world, airports are struggling to figure out a way to keep ever-growing airports clean. An international committee has convened, and a national panel is looking at air pollution from airports for the first time. Cutting airport pollution at a national level may allow a more comprehensive solution that doesn't pit one airport against another.

Some argue there will always be a tradeoff in air transportation, whether it's quieter planes in exchange for more NOx or busier airports to help local economies thrive. Striking a balance is difficult.

''While there are many techniques used to make engines more efficient, it tends to make it more difficult to reduce NOx,'' said Ian Waitz, associate professor of aeronautics and astronautics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. ''When you put into place various regulatory strategies, you are weighing the social costs among the social benefits.''

But those living near Logan say there must be jet engines that are both quieter and less polluting.

''It's all a soup here of noise, vibration, the smell of jet fuel, and air pollution,'' said Barbara Bishop of Winthrop. ''We need to start focusing on the health effects.''

This story ran on page A01 of the Boston Globe on 3/10/2001.

© Copyright 2001 Globe Newspaper Company.

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