Approved: Massport’s ESPR Receives Go Ahead from Theocharides

Last week State Environmental Secretary Katherine Theocharides approved Massport’s Logan Environmental Status and Planning Report (ESPR) despite elected officials, residents and environmental activists calling on Theocharides not to give Massport the  ESPR until they provide the Supplemental ESPR.

For the past several months elected officials have complained that passenger and flight activity forecasts included in the ESPR are way off target and Logan growth is outpacing meaningful mitigation.

Rep. Adrian Madaro, an outspoken critic of the ESPR, said his concern was rooted in Massport’s low forecasted passenger and aircraft activity growth rates of 1.5 percent and 1.2 percent. Over the most recent five years these key growth rates have averaged 6.5 percent and 5.9 percent, respectively. The previous ESPR in 2011 that was released in 2013 forecasted 38.9 million passengers by 2030, but Logan is actually at about 43.5 today. Logan is on pace for 50 million passengers by 2022 while Massport’s present planning forecasts in the approved ESPR won’t reach that level until 2032.

However, Theocharides approval of the ESPR came with conditions. In her decision the Secretary acknowledged the many concerns raised by residents and elected officials participating in the ESPR’s public comment process. In response to concerns over rising Logan impacts, Theocharides directed Massport to provide expanded mitigation packages in their next environmental filing due in the spring if growth continues to outpace Massport’s forecasts.

While Theocharides directs Massport to ensure that mitigation is commensurate with impacts she is also requiring Massport to provide information on research findings on health impacts of airports and include discussion of mitigation strategies.

In her decision Theocharides directs Massport to collaborate with community-based organizations, like East Boston Neighborhood Health Center, to recommend strategies for distributing HEPA filters to high-risk individuals.

Like cars, jets burn fuel and release harmful ultrafine particles that are so small they are absorbed right into the bloodstream and can lead to heart attacks and strokes.

Eastie’s chapter of the national Mothers Out Front movement has been making a plea for HEPA filters to be placed in schools and homes in Eastie.  Led Sonja Tenglad and Julia Burrell, this group concerned mothers fighting for environmental justice in the neighborhood, has been calling on Massport to provide HEPA filters for all public schools first and foremost, and then to all homes.

“We might not have a lot of control over the outdoors – we will still have to leave the playground early too many times because we can’t breathe well – but let’s at least protect them indoors,” said Tenglad.

In his comment letter to Theocharides on Massport’s ESPR Madaro said Massport should move immediately to mitigate pollution impacts “in as effective and direct a manner as possible”.  Madaro said Massport should immediately engage in partnership at their own expense with community groups in advancing comprehensive new in-school and in-home air pollution filtration projects which are now being developed.

Logan environmental watchdog group, AIR, Inc. is looking at Theocharides’s approval as a possible win for the community.

“All told, this is the most balanced certificate in recent memory and appears to hold promise of collaboration going forward,” said AIR, Inc.’s Chris Marchi. “AIR, Inc. looks forward to working with Massport in the near future as they seek community input on how to best fulfill their obligations under this certificate.”

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