December 18, 2002
Activists: State certificate goes too easy on Massport
By Jason Lefferts, Sun Staff
The state's secretary of environmental affairs believes Massport has put together an adequate plan for protecting the environment at Hanscom Field, but has raised questions about noise and road development, according to a report released yesterday.
Despite the concerns, local activists, who crowded recent public meetings on Massport's environmental review of the airport, claim the state is not going far enough in condemning what they say is a harmful increase in corporate jet traffic and other airport activity.
As part of the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act, Massport must create a report assessing long-term environmental effects on the airport, which straddles the Bedford-Concord line, and it must win approval from the Executive Office of Environmental Affairs. The approval released yesterday, known as a certificate, gives Massport guidelines for creating a final impact study.
"The certificate is somewhat disappointing, but we're not surprised. There were a number of issues that we know shows the MEPA regulations are weak, and this sort of reinforces what we know," said Margaret Coppe, a member of Safeguarding the History Hanscom Area's Irreplaceable Resources. "We were hoping they would use this opportunity to put some teeth into them, but they didn't."
Though it doesn't appease activists, the certificate, signed by Environmental Affairs Secretary Robert Durand, is critical of noise at Hanscom, which is a top complaint of those who live near the airport.
Durand notes that a lot of noise is caused when plane engines are revved as part of maintenance and repair. Neighbors have complained that the revving, called "run-ups," are often done in the wee hours of the morning, waking them up. The certificate encourages Massport to reduce nighttime run-ups, and to create an area that is treated for muffling sound.
The certificate also calls for Massport to consider Hanscom traffic's effect on Route 2A, which forms the backbone of the Minuteman National Historic Park.
According to an environmental affairs official, the state is unwilling to allow Massport to expand Route 2A, and wants changes to the road like a controversial proposal to put a traffic rotary at Merriam's Corner in Concord to be a last resort for easing traffic.
The certificate encourages Massport to create alliances with the Air Force and other groups to study traffic, and also raises the possibility of charging for parking at Hanscom as a way to reduce single-passenger cars at the airport.
A group of activists, Save Our Heritage, has been critical of Massport, claiming Hanscom has added road traffic and the increase in corporate jets and other uses at the airport threatens the historic park. The group is planning on taking its case to Washington, where it hopes a star-studded list of supporters, including singer Don Henley and actor Christopher Reeve, can convince Congress that new protections are necessary.
"As we have said all along, the state environmental process simply doesn't protect these nationally important resources," said Anna Winter, Save Our Heritage's executive director. "It's abundantly clear that federal legislation is needed, just like it was for the Grand Canyon, to preserve these sites for future generations."
Massport does not have any deadlines to finish a final version of the environmental report, which would also need approval from the state. The plan has received tremendous attention from activists and airport neighbors. According to a list attached to the certificate, the Executive Office of Environmental affairs has received more than 220 sets of comments since September.
With that in mind, Durand included in his report guidelines for Massport to hold up to two public hearings on the final draft, and encouraged the agency to make information available on its Web site and to give those who commented one month to go over the final report.
Jose Juves, a spokesman for Massport, said there is no clear time line on finishing the report, and he said the agency will look into concerns put forward by Durand.
"We're very pleased with the certificate, specifically in that it
recognized the very few environmental effects that operations at Hanscom Field
have on neighbors and local businesses," Juves said. "In moving
forward toward the final, it allows us to continue to work with community groups
on issues such as noise, and to some degree, traffic."
**NOTICE: In accordance with 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.** ==========