December 19, 2002
MEPA rubber-stamps Hanscom report
By Barbara Forster / Correspondent
News that the top state environmental agency has accepted -- as is -- a draft study prepared by Massport about environmental conditions at Hanscom Air Field is generating strong reactions.
"I'm appalled, said Lincoln Selectman Sarah Mattes at a meeting of the Hanscom Field Advisory Commission on Tuesday, Dec. 17 in Concord. Mattes called the methodology in the report shoddy and concluded that it was "anecdotal reporting at best."
"What this has done is shown the absolute hollowness of one agency's (Massport) work and this agency (MEPA) put a rubber stamp on it," she added.
The study, officially known as the Environmental Status and Planning Report, is submitted to the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs for review. The document is designed to present an overview of current environmental conditions at the field and use that information to determine policies and programs. As a state agency, Massport is required to periodically submit a report for public review on the environmental impacts of its operations and resulting mitigations.
Others Weigh In
"Given the detailed nature of the comments, I expected a more specific response," said Sheldon Moll, Bedford Selectman. "We made discrete comments and I didn't see them being addressed in specificity by the secretary."
Concord Selectman Gary Clayton agreed.
"I'm considerably disappointed in terms of what we realized and what we expected," he said. "I'm wondering whether this review was adequate."
Last month, more than 600 people turned out for a public hearing sponsored by the state environmental agency to discuss the report. The four Hanscom communities, neighboring communities, and numerous area civic and grassroots activists groups submitted comments on the document. The towns also hired an environmental consultant to lead the review in conjunction with the all-volunteer Environmental Sub-Committee.
Richard Canale of Lexington was not "terribly surprised at the outcome." The co-chairman of the Environmental Sub-Committee pointed out that agencies must "try very hard not to meet MEPA standards.
"Massport managed to get over the thresholds," said Canale.
Furthermore, according to Canale, the scope of the document that outlined what Massport would do was very broad and just as vague.
"In general the secretary is passing the next phase onto the next administration," added Canale. "But I am dismayed as to how Massport has characterized the report (on its Web site). It would lead the casual, and not-so-casual, reader to believe that MEPA agrees with Massport's assertions."
In a press release filed on its Web site, Massport stated that the environmental report "confirmed Hanscom's key role in regional transportation planning. In addition the report found that "while delivering essential aviation service to an area that has seen tremendous growth and development over the past 10 years, Hanscom Field has had limited environmental effects on local historic resources, neighbors and businesses."
The statement continues to say the "review provides sound environmental analysis for what could be the airport's potential by defining possible environmental effects, if any, under various scenarios."
Although the draft has been accepted, the process is not complete. The final
report will most likely be filed in spring 2003. For the most part, Massport
expects to make only minor corrections and clarifications. MEPA will issue a
final OK shortly thereafter.
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