Greenwashing At The Airport

Oct. 17, 2014
Talking the talk without walking the walk.

Last month’s cover story featured a few profiles of companies reinvigorating the GSE market with not just the typical “new and improved” equipment, but more “greener,” more “energy-efficient,” and more “environmentally friendly.”

No matter how you describe it, alternative energy GSE that can save money on fuel and maintenance that keeps combustion engines going without compromising on the performance we’ve come to rely on from fossil fuel is the slow and steady bet to place in most any race.


But have you ever heard of “greenwashing”? It’s a play on “whitewash” and means to promote the perception of environmentally friendly policies without much follow through on the conception, itself.

Every natural resource is limited in some way, and we know we should allocate such resources responsibly. But sometimes the misallocation of another type of unnatural resource – in this case, cold, hard cash – can be just as wasteful and shameful as leaving all the lights on.

Consider this recent news story:

  • Dateline Lehigh-Northhampton Airport where the airport authority “breathed a sigh of relief” after finding a way to repay a $791,000 federal grant that was misspent on electric vehicle charging stations at the airport.

Six chargers were installed four years ago, but never used since the airport never bought the electric GSE vehicles as planned.

Acccording to the local newspaper account, the matter began in 2009, when the FAA pledged $2.5 million and the state Department of Environmental Protection put in another $700,000 to fund most of a project to install the charging stations as well as eight electric PCA units. The FAA money was to go to equipment purchase and construction, and the state money toward buying eight electric-powered baggage-carrying and loading vehicles.

But the hybrid GSE were determined to be an ineligible use of the funds. So four years later, the FAA said  the unused charging stations were an "improper" use of the grant funds. Initially, the FAA wanted all its $2.5 million returned, but agreed to $791,000, largely based on what should have been spent on the GSE.

"It gets us out of a difficult position," said Authority Board Chairman Marc Troutman. "It's important to note that we inherited this problem. Most of us weren't on the board when this all started. We're all just working to get things pointed in the right direction again."

There are still no plans to use those electric chargers.

"We're not abandoning that program. We're going to have to wait until we're in a better financial position to buy the vehicles," Everett said. "Right now, we don't know when that might be."

This type of mismanagement gives green a black eye. But on the bright side, at the very least the PCAs were installed at a cost of more than $1 million and are working as planned,

About the Author

Steve Smith | Editor