August 23, 2001
Letter to the Editor: What's interesting about Hanscom?
The controversy over the expansion of corporate and commercial aviation at
Hanscom raises some interesting questions. Questions about maintaining
community quality of life, about designing responsive state government,
about preserving American history, and about the growth of special interest
influence in our country.
Some of the stuff that we find most interesting relates to the environment.
1. Our government does not monitor the toxic chemicals used by aviation. In
1997 a coalition of organizations including the Natural Resources Defense
Council, Defenders of Wildlife, the National Audubon Society and the Humane
Society of the United States failed in their petition to the EPA to include
transportation by air on the list of industries that must report their toxic
2. The EPA monitors only the emissions that come from large commercial
aircraft engines, and not the emissions from general aviation, corporate
jet engines, military jet engines, or piston-powered engines--all of which
comprise the primary types of planes that populate most smaller airports.
3. Aviation significantly affects global warming, and air pollution by
planes is a special concern because it is emitted directly into the upper
4. The threshold at which noise pollution by aviation must be mitigated is
far higher than the threshold recommended by the EPA, most governmental
agencies, and the World Health Organization.
5. Only a smattering of government studies have been done on the health
effects of airplanes and airports, but these health effects have been
documented by communities themselves, including recent studies by the
citizens of Winthrop that found that the most common of all respiratory
diseases, asthma and allergies, were twice as frequent in the part of their
town that is most heavily exposed to the airport.
If you're a political type, you might argue that it is also interesting that
a new bill in the House of Representatives (HR 2107) would take away 26
states' rights to control airport development. This has a few implications
for states' rights to control land development in general, we believe.
Recently we discovered that the Boston Globe seems to think that the most
interesting thing about airport expansion is class conflict. Its front page
news story and a subsequent editorial failed to mention any of the above
issues but emphasized that our wealthy communities are getting special
treatment (we are still waiting to find out, by the way, what that treatment
is.) In his news article Matt Brelis (August 11) quoted Massport
extensively but did not quote one person from the affected communities,
their many environmentalist and community allies in the Boston area, or the
national organizations that are working for sustainable transportation
systems. (An article on community reaction did run the next day, inside the
paper.) In his column, Adrian Walker's view (August 13) is "This is not
about the environment...Hanscom's neighbors don't deserve an exemption just
because they bought houses in the suburbs." Now isn't that interesting?
Amid important questions and coalitions and national implications... the
Globe chooses to play the class card. Watching what this kind of coverage
does for the Globe's reputation should be... interesting.
ShhAir Board Members:
Rae André, Lexington
Jim Hutchinson, Lincoln
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