Airports: Meet the Environment

ACI-NA meeting highlights the growing role cost is playing in daily operations


There are things that they either calculated wrong or just plain didn’t consider. They don’t consider operational costs at all, which is pretty problematic. Some of what they’re proposing would have some pretty big impacts at the New York and Boston airports. If you’re impacting operations there, it’s going to have a cost.

AB: Airports in Salt Lake City and Pittsburgh are currently investing in glycol recovery systems. Does this impact their efforts?

Steinhilber: That’s one of our comments, that airports across the country already have extensive infrastructure in place to deal with this runoff. The issue is, the way it’s been proposed EPA is basically saying, you have to put in deicing pads at these airports that use large amounts of deicing fluid. Well, you can’t just throw a pad down anywhere; it’s going to have significant operational impacts.

It works in Pittsburgh; it works in Salt Lake City because they have the space and because of the way their airfields are configured. It works there, and the industry is supportive of it, where it works. The rule needs to be flexible enough to allow airports to do what works for them, working with the airlines.

AB: A year ago, cap and trade was a hot legislative topic in Washington. Is it still a concern?

Steinhilber: It’s something that we’re following. It’s the same kind of thing as with the threshold – some airports could be included. All of that is so vague right now.

It doesn’t seem like there’s anything actually targeting airports.

AB: Detroit is talking windmills; San Francisco is putting solar panels on top of a parking garage. How much is alternative energy impacting airports?

Steinhilber: We are hearing more and more from airports that are exploring renewable energy — windmills; solar; geothermal. FAA is now developing some guidance, specific to solar, because they’re getting so many inquiries about it. We’re talking about it this week with our legal committee in a joint session, focused on a land use perspective.

AB: Anything in particular going on right now with NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act)?

Steinhilber: One thing we’re focusing on is integration of the planning process with the NEPA process. We’re having a conference this fall, bringing together planners and NEPA professionals and integrating within the event the two issues and how we can better integrate the two processes.

It’s something that our committee has been looking at.

AB: What would you say about NextGen and its potential to impact airports? For example, will Part 150 need to be rewritten? Will noise contour changes and possible increased capacity be a negative to airports?

Steinhilber: This is something we’ve been paying attention to regarding the potential operational and procedural changes associated with NextGen, and what the noise, air quality, and fuel burn impacts can be. There can be benefits, but at the same time there could also be some negative impact — like RNAV concentrating flights.

It’s definitely a concern.

AB: A benefit we hear about is increased capacity. Yet, more aircraft mean more fuel, more emissions, etc.

Steinhilber: Within NextGen, and I participate on an environmental working group, we’ve been flagging that pretty consistently. I think it’s generally recognized that environment stands to be a significant constraint to implementing NextGen, exactly as you describe it. So, we have to think about what we have to do to mitigate those impacts.

AB: So, will we have to do an environmental assessment on the entire system to determine if we can implement NextGen?

Steinhilber: (laughs)

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