Author: Claudio Ternieden, (703) 824-0504
What’s at Issue?
In recent years, federal agencies have been implementing a presidential directive requiring greater consideration of human health and environmental conditions in minority and low-income communities when carrying out federal regulatory activities. This directive is known as “environmental justice.” The U. S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) implementation of the environmental justice concept has resulted in significantly more community focus on environmental actions; from new construction of industrial facilities – including airports – to final pollutant discharge permits for existing facilities. The Department of Transportation (DOT) also has an environmental justice policy (DOT Order No. 5680.1) that covers all Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) actions and closely resembles EPA's policy. Since airport activities include numerous federal permits and processes, and minority and low-income communities are sometimes located near airports, environmental justice issues must be considered by EPA and the FAA when making decisions regarding airport projects.
Why is it Important to Airports?
In the last few years, there have been many claims of environmental justice issues brought through EPA and DOT. Some of these claims have halted the planned construction or expansion of industrial facilities and have dramatically influenced final permitting limits and conditions. This scrutiny has lead to costly delays in making changes to existing operations that require federal, state, or even local approval.
EPA's and DOT's environmental justice policies expand a citizen's opportunity to challenge federal actions on environmental justice grounds. This may increase the number of complaints alleging discrimination in the permitting or airport expansion processes. Such an increase in complaints may impede significantly an airport's attempt to obtain environmental permits by causing delays in permit issuance, creating uncertainty in the permitting process and by increasing the hurdles and or standards associated with obtaining a permit. Similar consequences apply to all FAA approval efforts.
It is likely that environmental justice will play an increasingly prominent role in airport permitting decisions and will continue to potentially cause delays in the permitting process. Airport operators must carefully consider environmental justice issues when planning an airport project.
AAAE Final Comments to EPA's Draft Title VI Guidance for EPA Assistance Recipients Administering Environmental Permitting Programs (Draft Recipient Guidance) and Draft Revised Guidance for Investigating Title VI Administrative Complaints Challenging Permits (Draft Revised Investigation Guidance) 65 Fed. Reg. 39, 649 (June 27, 2000)
Draft Title VI Guidance for EPA Assistance Recipients Administering Environmental Permitting Programs (Draft Recipient Guidance) and the Draft Revised Guidance for Investigating Title VI Administrative Complaints Challenging Permits (Draft Revised Investigation Guidance) http://airportnet.org/depts/environmental/FRTitle6.pdf
TRANSOURCE, the Transportation Environmental Resource Center, visit http://www.transource.org.