Mega Airport #2? Governor Surprise Veto
The 2023 legislature’s Engrossed Substitute House Bill 1791 (2023 ESHB1791) was set to continue the site search, with some better community involvement, better specificity as to excludable areas, and in the larger context of all modes of transportation than its predecessor, all the while continuing to harp on capacity shortfall claims that are sourced from the industry itself, lacking explanations to the Public. Of course, the industry wants to continue to grow as before, as if more cruise ships in the Port of Seattle (people taking cruises fly in for or out from them), and as if faster air cargo is climate resilient, as if the aviation industry can continue to fake a substantive timely contribution to greenhouse gas reduction goals, as if a new large airport benefits the local economy or the public at large, as if a new commercial airport is sure to bring relief to SeaTac communities. The governor signed ESHB1791 on Monday, May 15, 2023, but vetoed large sections of it.
ESHB 1791 as approven by the legislature in April 2023
Governor Veto letter, May 16, 2023
Per Veto letter (see link above), the Governor also asked the current aviation expansion commission (the CACC), who was just about to select a final one-site recommendation from three, two in Pierce County and one in Thurston County, to refrain from making a final site recommendation.
In reality, and not what the Governor, the CACC, the industry, or any of the news papers want to report: the population has said No to another large commercial airport many times before, with solid data and thoughtfulness, yet unsuccessful with the SeaTac third runway expansion. Things have changed, of course. We are experiencing climate change in our back yards and in our pocket books, and we have scientific studies about harmful health effects in airport communities, including at SeaTac, using research at Los Angeles and Boston Logan International Airports.
This veto was a surprise. Open conversations about the pros and cons of aviation expansion continue to be overdue. In today’s economy where wealth does not trickle down, is instead enriching major corporations, their shareholders and top management, in an economy where full employment means minimum-wage jobs for the many, certainly at airports, and where price gauging is called inflation, it may turn out that aviation is not as beneficial, its expansion not as needed, as the industry and its politicians like to claim.
The veto is hopefully a door opening to policy that benefits the many and local airport communities, including around SeaTac. Thank you to the citizens who have stepped up to the plate to fill in for those who should be representing them, and thank you to civic engagement groups in greater Seattle and around SeaTac, who enabled scientific research results and are influencing our congressional representatives and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
Thank you to the citizens who have had the courage to read, research, speak up, organize, and engage in discourse and discovery. Here is how we got here, giving a taste of the many involvements:
New Bill – ESHB 1791, after some amendments, is to continue aviation expansion work, with no expiration date, with some improvements and a lot of the same potential for misleading forecasts, bias reporting and hand-picked aviation-favoring members.
ESHB 1791 Scheduled for a Public Hearing in the Senate Transportation Committee on Tuesday, March 21 at 4:00pm. [Read here and participate.]
Washington’s Department of Transportation and its Aviation Expansion Work Group (WSDOT CACC) have acted as an extension of industry special interests. In a democracy, government should represent people and be a balance to over-reach by commercial interests. As the bill moves through committees, industry members continue to actively obscure and discredit the harmfulness of aviation on climate and public health, and overpromise technical solutions.
And so do elected officials, including the President of the United States, the congressional delegates from WA, Governor Inslee and his team, the Department of Energy. Does that make it right? NO !
WSDOT’s CACC has purposely declared the scientifically proven negative effects of airport pollution on public health beyond its scope, but considers outreach containing unproven and experimental-stage new flying technology within its scope. So-called capacity shortfalls remain unexplained and unsubstantiated. They certainly have nothing to do with Washington’s population growth, which is smaller than 1% annually until 2050 according to the WA Office of Financial Management, the official forecaster for growth management.
Thank you to those who continue to report objective and truthful information, and thank you to those who are actively engaged in pressing elected officials to represent people.
Certainly, growth and change will and should happen. But it needs to be for the right reasons. And if public monies pay for it, such as for a new mega airport, I need to know that the mega airport is in the public interest and for the benefit of the community around a new airport.
The CACC is on track to vote on a final recommendation in May or earlier, pending the new ESHB 1791 and its progress. It announces its meetings [here].
Actions taken so far:
Sharing of Information Free of Aviation/Transportation Industry Bias:
— OFM Office of Financial Management – Population Forecasts to 2050 [.pdf]
— TRPC Thurston Regional Planning Council [Nov 9 2022 Public Comment]
Questions to which a community needs answers so that it can prepare:
Message to the Governor, congressional delegates, and State Transportation Committee members, many of whom voted in 2019 for the legislative mandate to find a new mega airport site: Pause on aviation expansion, until clean and quiet flying is here and is implemented at existing airports, such as SeaTac.
Governor Inslee, PO Box 40002, Olympia, WA 98504-0002 P 360-902-4111
Becky Kelley, Gov’s Office Senior Policy Advisor, Climate P 360-688-8149 email@example.com
Senator Maria Cantwell, firstname.lastname@example.org, P 206-220-6400
Senator Patty Murray, P 202-224-2621
Rep. Marilyn Strickland, https://strickland.house.gov/contact, P 202-225-9740
State of Washington Transportation Committee Members 2023
|House and Senate||Excel|
New technology may be a game changer, but bio fuels are still as noisy and have the same tail pipe CO2 emissions as fossil fuels. And, quiet electric flying will not replace current routes for the foreseeable future.
In this day and age of income inequality, aviation expansion brings wealth to a few and detriment to public health, equity, and climate cooling. The work of the Aviation Division of WSDOT and the composition of its expansion workgroup (the Commercial Aviation Coordinating Committee CACC) institutionalizes a basic conflict of interest. The WSDOT Aviation Division should not be administering an aviation expansion recommendation, except through technical advising.
Aviation has to collaborate with the public in good-faith and government has to represent people. We are not getting that if legislators/WSDOT conduct surveys with bias information and pass legislation under the public radar.
The Public at the decision-making table and:
Respect for the surrounding community of a new mega airport, which is under approach and departure flight paths, as far as ten miles beyond the airport, and bears the brunt of the negative impacts. Scientific research at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SeaTac) proves that.
WSDOT’s aviation expansion work group decided to exclude these important research results from its public communications and site evaluations.
The same research proves the connection between aviation pollution and inequity around airports, such as poor health, poverty, poor school performance, underinsurance, the closer to the airport, the worse. Seattle/King County Health conducted this research at SeaTac (piggy-backing on earlier research by Tufts University at Los Angeles and Boston International Airports) and reported on it to WSDOT’s aviation expansion work group. So, ignorance is not an excuse here. WSDOT continues to purposely exclude it from public communications.
Unchecked Growth Forecasts: The forecasts for passenger and cargo service-needs are sourced from the aviation/transportation industry itself and the details are not disclosed, according to WSDOT. Yet, several billions with a “B” of public tax dollars would build a mega airport. Demand artificially created by the industry is likely to inflate the forecasts. And, they do not take climate cooling, changed business-travel behavior, and public health into account.
At the same time Governor Inslee, other elected officials, WSDOT and the aviation industry emphasize:
Sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) is coming soon – Independent knowledge sources, such as the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS June 2022 Can Biofuels Really Fly?) are valuable reality checks. The production of a difference-making quantity for the already extremely fuel-thirsty aviation industry is decades away and requires a major agricultural shift in production from food to biofuel-feed-stock; with it, greenhouse gas emissions are shifted away from flying to propagation and production, with no expected emission reduction.
Electric flying brings the Airport of the Future – WSDOT’s favorite topic – maybe as leisure and ‘flying car’ concept for the well-to-do, but the electricity has to come from somewhere. Range limits and heaviness of batteries make a broad commercial application unrealistic any time soon.
The aviation and transportation industries have well-funded and deep representation in both Washingtons, but enough is enough. More and more cheap flying is doing business as usual. It is not in concert with climate cooling, airport community health and wealth, and resource preservation any longer. The industry has already enjoyed decades of exceptions, grants, and special treatment and it now can and must become its own change agent with its own financial resources.
Use any of the above points or others and write a note or call. And let us know of your thoughts and actions in the blog.