Letter From Capuano Asking Regional Director of EPA to Oppose Runway 14/32

John P. DeVillars
Regional Administrator
Environmental Protection Agency - New England
One Congress Street
Boston, MA 02114

April 7, 1999

Dear Administrator DeVillars:

We write to express our strong opposition to the proposed expansion of Boston, Massachusetts' Logan International Airport, and to request, upon your review of the proposal's adverse and disproportionate impact upon low-income and minority communities, that you advise against construction of the new runway in your comments to the Federal Aviation Administration.

The airport's air traffic has increased by about three hundred percent in the past twenty years. Its current level of activity imposes severe burdens on neighboring communities: in the past twenty years, Logan's neighbors have suffered adverse health and environmental impacts and deteriorating property values, measurably and causally linked to air traffic noise. The FAA estimated, in 1985, that a one-decibel increase in noise pollution usually results in a .5 to 2% drop in property values. Further, there may be far more damaging social effects: a recent study by Cornell University has concluded that ambient noise so distracts young children that they may tune out speech as well. Children forced to be inattentive will not learn to read as well as children who go to school in quieter communities.

The state's proposal -- to construct a new unidirectional runway for general aviation and turbo-propeller traffic -- would reconfigure air traffic at Logan in such a way as to impose severe, adverse environmental impact upon many of Greater Boston's communities that are already over-burdened with airplane noise. Though the proposed project, Runway 14/32, could temporarily mitigate air-traffic congestion and improve safety at Logan, its permanent impact on the quality of life upon surrounding communities would be devastating.

Most distressing is that the newly proposed runway would further and disproportionately affect some of Greater Boston's most economically distressed and minority communities -- Chelsea and Somerville, Massachusetts, and the Boston neighborhoods of Charlestown, East Boston, Jamaica Plain, and Roxbury. If the new runway were to be constructed, it is estimated that the flights over Chelsea, Massachusetts alone would result in a projected 5% to 10% decrease in property values. Simply, these impacts are unfair and inequitable.

We urge that you thoroughly examine the impact upon Logan's neighboring low-income and minority communities. Specifically, the project's Draft Environmental Impact Statement (Logan Airside Improvements Planning Project, February 1999) is non-compliant with the Clinton Administration's February 11, 1994 Executive Order on Environmental Justice, as it inadequately addresses the disproportionate impact upon affected low-income and minority populations.

Estimates of the increase in Logan's air traffic over the next ten years, without regard for the construction of a new runway, are as high as seventy percent. Some projections indicate there may be more than double today's air traffic at Logan by the year 2050. Clearly, a more thorough and full consideration of alternatives to help solve the region's air traffic dilemma is needed. Some proposals not yet thoroughly considered include immediate implementation of incentive "peak-pricing," diversion of small aircraft to alternate airports, and more effective use of underutilized regional airports such as Hanscom Airfield (only a few minutes drive from Boston's downtown), the Municipal Airport in Worcester, Massachusetts, T. F. Green Airport in Providence, Rhode Island, and Manchester Airport in Manchester, New Hampshire. Such a comprehensive approach to the region's air traffic problems is needed to ensure the regional economy expands, without directing undue burden upon Boston's low-income and minority populations.

We thank you for you attention to this matter of great concern to the people of Boston and its surrounding communities. We look forward to working with you and the FAA to find a fair and forward-looking solution to these critical problems.

Michael E. Capuano
Member of Congress