Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the “Capacity Enhancement Project” at Philadelphia International Airport is Published

The FAA recently published the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for its “Capacity Enhancement Project” (CEP) (warning! this is a large file, the DEIS is broken up into Chapters at the end of this post) at the Philadelphia International Airport (PHL).  Comments on the DEIS are due no later than November 10, 2008. Since, as its title suggests, the FAA seeks to increase capacity at PHL, there is a concomitant increase in environmental effects of the project over what would be considered the “no action” alternative,i.e., not doing the project.  In particular, there will be increases in noise in certain areas and an increase in air pollution created by the airport, not only by the increase in aircraft once the project is finished, but also by the construction created by the Project.

After dismissing several options as not meeting the “Purpose and Need” of the Project, the FAA offers two alternatives, both involve:

  • the addition of a new 12,000-foot runway 9C-27C;
  • relocating the Air Traffic Control, Tinicum Island Road, Island Avenue, and the UPS terminal;
  • closing Hog Island Pier and and extending Fort Mifflin Pier; and,
  • closing Conrail line south of the Airport and constructing new rail line northeast of the Airport.

The major differences between the two alternatives are:

  • Alternative B eliminates the 6,500-foot runway, Runway 17-35; and
  • Alternative B would tear down the existing terminal and create a terminal system similar to that at Atlanta Hartfield with terminal “islands” connected by a People Mover;

Although the FAA claims that the total population and housing units exposed to DNL 65 dB and greater would decrease substantially under both alternatives, those decreases “would occur primarily north of the Airport in Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania as a result of eliminating Runway 17-35 or significantly reducing its use.”  That being said, the FAA admits that there would be “significant impacts” under both alternatives to people and housing units in Delaware County thus shifting the noise contours from Philadelphia County to Delaware County.  In addition, both Camden and Gloucester Counties would experience increases in noise levels during the twelve years of construction.

Likewise, with respect to air quality, the FAA admits that there will be an increase in emissions of pollutants, especially during the construction phase of the project.  This is an increase not only of “criteria pollutants” (i.e., Volatile Organic Compounds, Nitrous Oxides, and Particulate Matter) but also of “Hazardous Air Pollutants” and greenhouse gases.  Moreover, despite recent studies indicating that emission of pollutants above 3,500 feet above ground level has an effect on air pollutant levels on the ground (click here for a summary of the Taubman and the Clark studies, click here (on p.3) for a summary of the University of Maryland study), the FAA ignores the effect that such high level emissions will have.

Humans will not be the only ones effected by the project.  The DEIS also reports that natural resources such as wetlands, and parks, as well as endangered and threatened species will be impacted by the Project.

A couple of final notes:

  • The DEIS does not mention coordination with any local agency outside the City of Philadelphia. This is despite the fact that although the City of Philadelphia operates PHL, most of the Airport is actually located in Delaware County, Pennsylvania.
  • Comments on the DEIS are due no later than November 10, 2008.  That being said, it should also be noted that if one were to bring a lawsuit against the FAA after the FAA decides to implement this Project, that person is limited to raising issues before the court that he or she raised before the FAA.  In other words, if no one comments on the Project on a particular issue prior to the FAA making its final decision, that issue may not be raised in a subsequent lawsuit.

More information regarding the Project can be found at the Project web site http://www.phl-cep-eis.com.  Here are links to the separate Chapters, Figures and Appendices, if you do not want to download the entire DEIS.

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