This story ran on page B1 of the Boston Globe on 12/18/2001.
© Copyright 2001 Globe Newspaper Company.
Boston renews runway fight Argues terror attacks left Logan altered
By Raphael Lewis, Globe Staff, 12/18/2001
Saying the ''Massachusetts Port Authority that exists today is not the same one that existed on Sept. 11,'' the City of Boston yesterday asked the state's top environmental regulator to reopen his decision to certify the building of a controversial runway at Logan International Airport.
The highly unusual request, made by the city's Environmental Department to state Secretary of Environmental Affairs Robert Durand, comes as Logan flight volume remains roughly three-quarters of what it was prior to the
That, combined with a resulting drop in revenue from landing fees and parking, will leave Massport ''unable or unwilling'' to fund a series of
environmental projects that would offset the impact of the runway, city officials say.
''The existing environmental evaluation of the Project relied upon data and analyses that are no longer applicable to significant substantive issues,'' wrote Antonia M. Pollak, the city's environmental director.
Douglas Pizzi, a spokesman for Durand, said only that Durand had received the letter and was considering it. He also said that the city's move was
''rare'' but ''not unheard of,'' although he could not immediately recall similar cases of an environmental policy review being reopened. Durand issued his 19-page certificate, under the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act, on June 15.
Mayor Thomas M. Menino also wrote a similar letter to Federal Aviation Administration head Jane Garvey, asking that the FAA's review of the runway proposal, which is nearing completion, take into account the monumental changes to the aviation industry in weighing the project. Menino released the letter, dated Dec. 12, yesterday.
Even if Durand refuses to reopen the case and the FAA gives the green light to the runway, Massport still faces a major obstacle: a court injunction
barring any runway construction at Logan.
Jose Juves, a spokesman for Massport, which has relentlessly pushed Runway 14/32 as the single antidote to wind-related delays at Logan, said the city's request was based on flawed logic.
Regarding Massport's ability to pay for the mitigation projects, Juves said the city was presuming, on the basis of no specific knowledge, that the authority would still be in embroiled in its current financial crisis.
''By the time the runway is up and fully operational, in four to six years, we fully expect our financial situation to have improved dramatically, and we expect to meet every single mitigation obligation in the current [Environmental Policy Act] certificate,'' Juves said.
He also insisted the runway was not being built to increase capacity, as
critics of 14/32 have long contended, but rather to give pilots using Logan an alternative when strong northwest winds buffet the airport, as happens frequently.
''While a lot of things have changed since Sept. 11, one thing that hasn't changed is the weather,'' Juves said.
Massport hopes to receive federal approval for the 5,000-foot runway within the next year. Construction on the runway, usable only by smaller jets and propeller planes, such as those used by Cape Air, would begin in late 2003, and last about one year.
Massport expects to file a final environmental impact report with the FAA.
Opponents of the runway, most of them from neighboring communities, cheered the city's new strategy as a common-sense request in obviously changed times.
''We were hoping Bob Durand would have given the runway a more rigorous review the first time around,'' said Bill Manning, vice president of Communities Against Runways Expansion, or CARE. ''If the City of Boston gets what it's asking for, it's certainly what's needed. I have to admire the
mayor's courage for bringing this up.''
In asking Durand to reopen his certification process, the city cited legal precedent, Massachusetts vs. Watt. In that 1983 case, made under the National Environmental Policy Act, state attorneys argued that the federal government's approval of a plan for the sale of leases to drill for oil and gas off the Massachusetts coast did not reflect new estimates of the amount of oil to be drilled. The federal Court of Appeals reopened the case.
Peter Koff, a lawyer for CARE, said he thinks the city's move has ''a good chance of success.''
''The whole justification for the runway has changed,'' said Koff. ''Therefore, the whole analysis that underlies the document and the alternatives Bob Durand examined should be reconsidered.''
This story ran on page B1 of the Boston Globe on 12/18/2001. © Copyright 2001 Globe Newspaper Company.
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