With the special election preliminary for the District 1 City Council seat less than a month away, the two candidates vying for the seat squared off in a candidates forum on environmental justice Monday night.
Sponsored by the Environmental Justice League of Massachusetts, Pueblo and GreenRoots, Gabriela Coletta and Tania Del Rio fielded questions in the hour-long forum.
One of the three questions posed to each candidate that stuck out was whether they felt Massport was doing enough to mitigate its emissions and its carbon footprint at Logan Airport.
“It’s not enough at all,” said Coletta who answered first. “Community activism against Logan Airport is in my DNA and my activism won’t stop short at any Massport boundary. Massport likes to say that they don’t have enough money to do x,y and z but the fact is they’ve had the highest levels of air travel since the pandemic. East Boston has numerous levers of negotiation to receive the compensation and dignity that residents deserve. We have community leaders and activists to thank for things that have happened in the past for airport impact reduction strategies, including an airport sponsored community filtration program, reduction in nighttime overflights and a dramatic diversion of passenger car traffic to Logan.”
Coletta said as City Councilor she would demand municipal action in defense of the environmental rights of her constituents.
“We just can’t look away from the impacts this airport has on our Environmental Justice Community,” she said. “The City of Boston has largely looked away and hasn’t engaged Massport but I hope that will end. Mayor Michelle Wu in her Green New Deal plan makes clear that she wants to reduce CO2 emissions and create a city centered on social and ecological justice but it makes no mention of Boston’s single emission source which is Logan Airport. So we want progress and progress is absolutely possible, but not if the state and Massport planners continue to fight for the status quo.The City of Boston must become a forceful and ferocious advocate for equity and I intend to be a strong advocate and ally for the community and pushing them in partnership with my entire state delegation to ensure that this community gets what it deserves and covering the cost of installing HEPA air filtration systems across the community.”
Answering next, Del Rio commented that Masport is creating 35,000 pounds of pollutants on average daily and most of that is coming directly into our neighborhood.
“It’s causing health issues, public health issues, specifically with our children who present higher asthma rates,” said Del Rio. “It’s the ultrafine particles that are coming out of there (Logan) that are even thought to be producing developmental delays of many of our kinds. So this is a public health issue for all of us. As a mother, obviously I’m worried about my children, we can see the airport from our window. We recently saw that Massport put forth a $1 billion plan to reduce its impact over the next decade, but the devils in the details because when you look at it, it’s depending too heavily on carbon offsets and those are not mitigation efforts that are carried out locally. So for us, what we’re trying to see Massport do is reduce its emissions and we have to be clear that it’s not just from airplanes and jet fuel that those emissions are coming. They’re also coming from traffic, car traffic, vehicle traffic that comes into the airport, from different parts of the state.”
Del Rio said she wants to see a plan where Massport is thinking about really how to reduce traffic into the airport.
“They could think about making the Logan Express free so that they incentivize people using public transportation into the airport,” she said. “If you make it reliable, free and frequent people will prefer it. So there are different options and we can get creative about how but I want to see Massport committing to reducing emissions (not only for planes) but also from vehicle traffic. I also want to see Massport invest in mitigation funds for air pollution abatement and air filters. I would start with the schools and then I would go to the surrounding area residences because we are all exposed to it.”
Del Rio said she recently rolled out a climate plan and is proposing that the City of Boston take accounting emissions as seriously as the city takes our financial accounting.
“I’m proposing that the city come up with a carbon emissions budget and that it starts with municipal buildings moving on to large buildings, and I think Massport and the emissions from Massport should be a big part of that,” she said. “So I would like to see the mayor, the city council working with Massport to see how we are going to measure those emissions and how we are going to set targets for them to be lowered year after year. So we’ve got to be thinking creatively. We have to be thinking innovatively and we have to put pressure on Massport.”