October 24, 2002
Consultants zero in on what's missing from environmental study
By Barbara Forster / Correspondent
What's not in an environmental study prepared by Massport about Hanscom Air Field was part of a presentation at Bedford Town Hall on Thursday, Oct. 17.
Lisa Baci, the environmental consultant hired by the four Hanscom communities to review the document, spent about an hour reviewing some of the findings. Although Baci handed Massport a few compliments, including ease of readability, better graphs and topic organization and greater efforts to inventory sensitive (cultural) resources, she moved quickly into a critique.
Future aviation activities that drive all analyses were high on the hit list.
"The forecasts are seriously flawed," said Baci. "There are no reasonable upper or lowers and the assumptions are unreasonable."
For example, Massport assumes that cargo carriers (which could be introduced at Hanscom in 2005) will use the quietest planes available.
"But carriers currently have a much larger percentage of noisy planes (than quieter ones) and Massport can't control what carriers use," added Baci.
According to Baci, the existence of scenarios is problematic for the communities. On one hand, the scenarios are hypothetical.
"But it is important to stress that these [scenarios] are also supposed to be realistic," she said. "Some are already on the drawing board."
For example, Massport is in the final stages of deciding on a contractor to rebuild a hangar at the field. Furthermore, continued Baci, if the forecasts are accurate - and she stressed that great effort goes into the process to make the scenarios - no additional environmental study could be needed for many of the possible projects analyzed in the document.
Julian Bussgang, cochairman of the Environmental Subcommittee, pointed out that under Special Review Procedures, the state environmental agency "can allow new projects without further review" based on documents like the one Massport submitted.
"The scenarios set no bounds on airport activity," he added. "Only the limits of proposed infrastructure control capacity (of the airport)."
Tom Ennis of Massport noted, however, that Massport does not make the rules.
"MEPA has environmental thresholds and if you meet those thresholds, the project comes under review," he said.
Baci argued that the section on traffic focuses only on peak hours and a limited number of intersections; what happens between the intersections is ignored.
"Massport, by its own admission, generates [mostly] off-peak traffic, so it's not discussed," she added.
In addition, mitigation measures are inadequate.
"Demand management is Massport's primary strategy for air quality and traffic mitigations," said Baci, "yet they are not willing to commit to taking a leadership role among other employers."
Ennis countered that, while Massport has admittedly not led the meetings, the agency has participated in traffic management discussions. On the other hand, very few towns send representatives to those meetings.
Furthermore, mitigation measures are not tied to specific levels or triggers, continued Baci, "and there is no schedule or cost estimate provided even though this was specifically asked for by the state."
Not surprisingly the Noise Chapter received low marks, but Baci also hammered away at the chapter on Historical and Cultural Resources. Massport was criticized for not showing the correct boundaries for Minute Man National Historical Park.
The park's boundaries, which were established by Congress, go beyond land specifically owned by the park. Massport owns some acreage and so does the state. The park could purchase the land if the sellers wanted to deal. Maps in the document show only land owned by the park.
Water Quality, Etc.
Baci stated that information on the effects of de-icing planes and/or runways is missing.
Currently, Massport plows the runways; no chemicals are used. But Massport has stated previously that could change. In addition, given the amount of aviation activity in the forecasts, the assumption should be that commercial planes, regardless of size, will use de-icing chemicals.
The document emphasizes the improvement in air quality, at least in the case of two pollutants-nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds-but doesn't emphasize that they have also increased over the years. Furthermore, they are expected to continue to increase if aviation activity increases.
Massport was also recognized for funding the towns' consultants, which included Baci and several experts in specific fields.
Sanford Fidell, vice-president of Fidell Associates, Inc. of Woodland Hills, Calif., was the group's noise consultant. Forrest Lindwall, executive vice president of Mistry Associates in Reading, was the traffic guru. And Todd Burger, managing partner of CNI Partners, LLC in Concord, assisted with aviation issues.
The Basic Foundation
Massport's document is based on four different scenarios representing the overall amount of possible future aviation activity. After forecasting the amount of aviation activity at the field, the effects on various environmental, historical, and cultural factors are analyzed. In the study years, 2005 and 2015, each year has moderate and high growth forecasts. Aviation activity includes flight training, corporate jets, military, helicopter flights, and commercial planes.
In 2005, the scenario predicts 231,004 to 246,078 (high) total aviation operations. For 2015, the figures are 272,461 to 295,828.
In 2000, the total was 212,781; last year the number was 205,436.
The forecasts are for the Environmental Status and Planning Report that Massport is required to file every five years with MEPA, the state agency responsible for administering the Environmental Protection Act.
One More Meeting
On Thursday, Nov. 7, the state will hold a public hearing to give area residents an opportunity to talk about the report. The public comment period ends a week later.
Seven days after the comment period ends, the state will mostly likely give Massport permission, with or without changes, to prepare the final document, which the agency plans to file early in 2003.
Baci and the all-volunteer Environmental Subcommittee, a group established by
the Hanscom Area Towns Committee, will prepare specific comments to be submitted
to the state environmental agency that decides whether Massport has done its
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