The SeaTac-POS ILA: Good or Bad?

‘ILA’ sounds like it has potential to be extremely boring, but from what people are saying around Sea-Tac Airport (KSEA), we all need to know what an ‘InterLocal Agreement’ is, and how much harm it can do. Some are saying that the latest ILA draft is yet another bad act by the Port of Seattle: spending taxpayer money to BUY silence from the tiny few elected officials who otherwise could do the most to help mitigate growing airport impact problems.

In this example, a new ILA has been drafted to expedite further growth of the airport and operations. It was drafted by a ‘JAC’ (Joint Advisory Committee), which is a team of five officials, two representing the Port of Seattle (aka POS, operator of KSEA) and three from the city of SeaTac (which essentially surrounds the POS properties). Of course, it is easy to see the push for an ILA comes entirely from POS; we would never see a small community approach an airport authority and ‘ask’ for an ILA. And, when dealing with POS, the relatively inexperienced officials at SeaTac just cave in when monetary treats are offered; money is the drug, and nobody fails to see who is the dealer and who is the addict.

An Analysis by aiReform

A few hours were spent studying the ILA draft, and comments/highlights were added; all of this is viewable in the scrollable PDF below.

One predominant concern is that an ILA appears to be a way for an airport authority to sidestep addressing problems, such as happen related to over-expansion at KSEA. Instead of meeting with impacted area residents and solving problems – finding the right balance between air commerce and local health and quality of life – POS chooses to ‘pay off’ local elected officials, buying their cooperation. Then, if/when local residents go to their elected body for help, well, that’s been cut off by the ILA.

Another general concern is how the city is enabling POS to entirely self-regulate, in exchange for annual cash payments; not too hard for POS to do, since they collect property taxes from residents throughout the Seattle area. Also, with the intended expedited processes, the window for citizen input is essentially shut tight; just not enough time for you or me to read a draft and submit a meaningful concern or suggestion.

In a democratic society, it almost feels like an ILA should be illegal. Federal agencies like FAA should be pressing for rules that protect people against the excesses of ILA’s such as this one. Not surprisingly, FAA remains mute; after all, they serve the airlines first.

People need to take a close look at this, identify what fails, and demand better governance. Airports should serve communities, not airlines.

Click on the image below for a scrollable view; the PDF file may be downloaded.

FAA and Port of Seattle: Leading Us in a Global ‘Race to the Bottom’

Rose Bridger’s latest paper takes a close look at Special Economic Zones (SEZs). Practically speaking, SEZs are an evolved form of entities such as the Port of Seattle, which was a special authority created by the state of Washington, when the Port District Act was passed back in 1911. These entities are designed to empower players who are wealthy and politically connected, while also insulating these players from both accountability and transparency. SEZs are typically supported by governments, and these days often are done in ‘public-private partnership’ with multi-national corporations.
SEZs generally subsidize the major players with:

  • …use of state authority to sieze lands – frequently productive farmland; this is part of the global land-grabbing phenomenon that is displacing rural and indigenous people.
  • …public funding of infrastructure, including airport construction, utilities and surface transportation networks.
  • …allocation of land and other essential resources; and,
  • …of course, generous tax breaks.

Across the globe, thousands of airport-linked SEZs have been developed. These are a form of deregulation targetted at benefitting big-business, and they frequently seed rampant cronyism. The rates and laws within SEZs differ from the surrounding areas; tax breaks and other incentives aim to narrowly benefit investors, while simultaneously aiding the incumbency of elected officials. However, due to weak linkages with the host economy, the benefits of SEZs often fail to extend beyond the boundaries of the designated enclaves. Also, foregone tax revenues put a strain on local government coffers. Non-resident investors take advantage of these tax breaks, but often eventually relocate to alternative sites offering even more generous perks. When this happens, the SEZs languish as useless white elephants. And the impacts upon local residents tend to be negative and extreme: destroyed communities, blighted ‘noise ghettoes’, sleep loss and stress, and diminished health caused by aviation air pollution.

Here’s a PDF copy of Rose’s latest paper (23-pages):

Click on the image below for a scrollable view; the PDF file may be downloaded.

In her conclusion, Rose notes:

“New airport linked economic zones bring the short-term certainties of massive government expenditure on infrastructure and lucrative contracts for construction firms….”
“Airport-linked economic zones accelerate the global ‘race to the bottom’ by providing geographically defined areas where deregulation and tax breaks, to serve the interests of big business, are maximised. The new economic zones must also be viewed within the context of broader economic justice concerns of tax breaks for aviation set to benefit investors, in particular the almost universal tax exemption of aviation fuel for international flights. Allocation of land assets to airports for generation of non-aeronautical revenue is another form of subsidy. Monetisation of airport land banks is accelerating worldwide as aerotropolis style development gathers pace.”

Rose Bridger’s Latest Paper Looks at Aviation Abuses in Indonesia


The imbalance of power between aviation and local residents is troubling. In the United States, we commonly see where the federal regulator, FAA, ‘collaborates’ with airport authorities, airlines, operators and other industry players to run roughshod over local communities. Aviation profits are always profusely accommodated, nearly always with substantial costs to people and the environment: natural habitat is destroyed, quality of life is diminished, and people are exposed to more air pollutants, including carcinogens.

Across the planet, some of the most egregious aviation injustices are happening where state authorities are enabling industry expansions against the will of local residents, sometimes even large population areas. When people in the U.S. rise up to fix aviation impacts, they rarely have to deal with lines of cops. They deal instead with a wall of unaccountable bureaucrats; people who make their money by supporting aviation expansion; people who routinely lie, distort, and even antagonize the much better people who are responsibly seeking to fix the aviation impacts; people who play ‘hot potato’, claiming they lack authority so “…gee, check with the other guy.”

Is it fair to say that, in either form, this amounts to state terrorism? If burdens are imposed and rights taken, be they by gun or billy club or categorical exclusion, does it really matter how graphically extortive the process is? Nobody may be killed or even injured (a good thing!), yet many bodies (and minds) incur great costs for the narrow benefits created. Farmland is taking and people are dislocated (see this example in rural Minnesota). All of this is enabled by federal agencies that pretend to enforce safety and manage aviation, but more truthfully just offers cover for industry players to abuse people. In the United States, in Indonesia, and across the planet.

How Do People Regain Power?

When dealing with unaccountable bureaucrats (especially those at FAA and various airport authorities), it’s always a good idea to learn as much as you can. Study what is happening elsewhere. See how others are making progress. Identify the framing that YOU need to impose on the issues; if we allow FAA/industry to frame the issues and implement faux-solutions like time-wasting workgroups, we only guarantee that the problems will persist, never to be resolved.

Rose Bridger, UK author of Plane Truth: Aviation’s Real Impact on People and the Environment, is one person whose works are well worth studying. Rose continues to be a prolific advocate for people and the environment. She has just published a new insightful study: Aviation expansion in Indonesia: Tourism, land struggles, economic zones and aerotropolis projects. Here is an archived copy:

Click on the image below for a scrollable view; the PDF file may be downloaded.


UPDATE, 6/14/2017: — per a GAAM email update: The report contains a map showing all the airport locations and maps of two airport sites, and accompanies GAAM’s interactive digital map: Aviation Expansion in Indonesia which features all the airports that are mentioned, integrating spatial information with text and images. For paper copies of the report, please contact: Third World Network, 131 Jalan Macalister, 10400 Penang, Malaysia, Tel: 60-4-2266728/2266159, Fax: 60-4-2264505, Email: twn@twnetwork.org.

[ai-RCHIVE] 1997-02: Sea-Tac International Airport Impact Mitigation Study, Initial Assessment & Recommendations (347p)

Take a close look at this impact study done more than two decades ago, which includes these opening paragraphs:

(click on image to view a downloadable copy of the report)

Twenty years later, how well have the Port of Seattle (POS) and local elected officials applied the content in this study, to protect and serve the local residents and taxpayers?

Is the proper BALANCE in place, so that the airport serves the local community rather than destroy it?

Is KSEA becoming yet one more case of an over-expanded airport creating benefits for airlines and the industry, at great costs in destroyed communities and lost quality of life?

Dissecting Nextgen: a Presentation at the ‘Fight the Flight 101’ Community Forum

The forum, at the Mt. Rainier High School in Des Moines, was well attended, with at least double the number who attended the Port of Seattle Commission meeting a day earlier. Toward the end of the event we learned that 1,600 were online watching the livestream video!

The energy of the QSPS members was excellent, as was their organization. The one aspect that fell short was there was simply not enough time to cover the material we were all prepared to present, but then again, we did not want to make people sit for hours. So, at the presentation, it was noted that online copies of the presentations would be posted. Here is a copy of the 42-slides by aiREFORM. Roughly half were covered to some extent, but very many were not even addressed … just not enough time.

Click on the image below for a scrollable view; the PDF file may be downloaded.

Thanks to Steve, Sheila, Debi, Larry and many others, whose hard work will help to educate people, so we can get back the quality of life being taken by the aviation industry at the overexpanded Sea-Tac airport.


UPDATE, 4/29/2017:Working to Solve the Problems Created by NextGen This earlier project, an aiREFORM Post to create a short document summarizing the problems of NextGen and how to solve them, offers a text version of the 42-slide PDF above. Just click on the blue link title to view and/or download your own copy.

KSEA: ‘Fight the Flight 101’ Community Forum, Tonight

One of the only major U.S. airports growing right now serves the Seattle area, Sea-Tac [KSEA]. While most other U.S. airports remain flat or in decline, Sea-Tac is growing simply because Delta Airlines chose to build up a new hub there in 2012. Time will show other Delta hubs (KSLC, KMSP, KDTW) will diminish to feed the excess of flights to KSEA, where areas even 20-miles from the runway are now getting far more noise and pollutant impact.

Here is the announcement by Quiet Skies Puget Sound, a group of impacted residents who have had enough and are coming together, activating to fix this mess at Sea-Tac, pressing elected officials to serve, and FAA and other authorities to become transparent and accountable:

(click on image to view event announcement and learn more)

And, here are two slides from the conclusion of the aiREFORM presentation, to be given tonight at this community forum:

The problem is a broken and corrupted culture at FAA, enabling abuses upon people by money-interests in the aviation industry. This is a widespread problem, extending far beyond Sea-Tac’s impact zone. The entire aiREFORM presentation will be posted online in the near future.

 

Aviation Impact Activism Documentary: ‘Destination East Boston’

This is an excellent documentary covering five decades worth of airport expansion impacts on Boston residents, even back into the 1960s. Somebody who knows this history more intimately, perhaps an East Boston resident, needs to write up a chronology about this history.

If someone takes on this project, aiREFORM will offer support, helping to create a webpage that includes maps, photos, links and more to share this story.

Destination: East Boston from Lucas La Battaglia on Vimeo.

The film appears to be connected to Airport Impact Relief, Inc., a nonprofit.

Timeline (subjects & appearances) in the film:

  • (1:24) – Mary Ellen Welch
  • (2:18) – Chris Marchi
  • (3:14) – Wood Island Park
  • (3:28) – Anna DeFronzo
  • (4:16) – Rich Gavegnano
  • (6:06) – Frederick Salvucci
  • (7:20) – Father Corrigan
  • (7:30) – SEP 1968, residents follow the example set in the 1960s civil rights marches. They realize that letters and attending airport meetings was not changing the airport growth ambitions; so, they began to protest more actively, blocking construction trucks.
  • (16:07) – Brian Gannon
  • (17:21) – Gail Miller
  • (20:16) – Wig Zamore
  • (21:28) – Sumner Tunnel & Callahan Tunnel
  • (23:13) – “It’s really frustrating … they really have a hold of our neighborhood, our community, in such a way that you can’t really challenge them….”
  • (23:35) – Father Sallese
  • (24:27) – Frank Sargent
  • (26:46) – Luz Heredia, her two children have asthma
  • (36:57) –  an example of the propaganda machine in East Boston
THANKS!Facebook post by Jana Chamoff Goldenberg.

[KSMO]: Grossly Incompatible with the Community Around It

It has been a busy Fall at the Santa Monica Airport [KSMO], where FAA is flexing its administrative-legal muscles, intervening to delay city efforts to evict two private operators. The City wants to take over fuel sales and other airport services (known as ‘FBO services’), but the private FBOs do not want to accept that their leases are expired, nor do they want to give up lucrative profits. Just like FAA does not want to adhere to the agreement they struck with the city, in 1984, which meant the city could outright close the airport in July 2015.

In a recent email, Nelson Hernandez, the Senior Advisor to the Santa Monica City Manager, offered yet another update on the city’s progress. He noted that, “…on August 23, Council directed the City Manager to establish a city-owned FBO by December 31, or as soon as practicable….” He then added, there is ample precedent for airport authorities (in this case, the City of Santa Monica) setting up their own FBO services at an airport, instead of letting an out-of-state operator reap the hefty profits. He noted three airports: “…in the last two years, Fort Wayne, Greenville, and Chattanooga, created their own City FBO for similar financial reasons….” He was referring to airports in Fort Wayne, IN [KFWA], Greenville, NC [KPGV], and Knoxville, TN [KDKX].

Out of curiosity, I did some online research and confirmed that, yes, all three of these airports have city-operated FBOs. And, all three appear to be very healthy airports. Nelson’s list of three airports included one with an FAA control tower [KFWA] and two with no control tower [KPGV] and [KDKX]). Here’s the data on these three airports, with [KSMO] added for comparison:

    • KFWA: 70 based aircraft, a 12,000ft runway and an 8,000ft runway. FAA data shows the airport had 36,100 landings and takeoffs in 2015, down 71% from its peak year (124,000 ops in 2000). [3,400 acres, surrounded by farmland]
    • KPGV: 71 based aircraft, a 7,200ft runway, and a 5,000ft runway. Form 5010 shows 48,200 annual operations in the year ending 5/30/2016 (this is a rough estimate, as there is no tower). [872 acres, surrounded by forest, farmland and limited residential development]
    • KDKX: 167 based aircraft, and a single, 3,500ft runway. Form 5010 shows 68,400 annual operations in the year ending 4/30/2013 (this is a rough estimate, as there is no tower). [200 acres, surrounded by a river, a large quarry, and farmland]
    • KSMO: 249 based aircraft, and a single 5,000ft runway. FAA data shows the airport had 90,200 annual operations in 2015, down 62% from its peak year (234,800 ops in 1991). [215 acres, surrounded by dense residential neighborhoods; and, within the airport, substantial footage is presently subleased to non-aviation business uses, generating profits for the FBOs.]

I noticed something else, too, which was a bit startling. You’ll see it starkly presented in the three image-pairs below. When you look at how Santa Monica’s runway is shoe-horned into the neighborhoods, and when you compare it to the ‘airport normality’ of these other three, far less crowded airport locations, it just jumps out at you. And, when you look at the series of images showing how many houses were removed in recent years for a runway expansion at a very slow Greenville airport, you just have to wonder how in the world people can coexist with business jets so close to their Santa Monica homes. I mean, if FAA moves people out of their homes in Greenville, what is it about Santa Monica homeowners that makes them less at risk than North Carolinians? And given that there are so many Santa Monica homes, would it not make the most sense to simply close the airport??

Clearly, each of these three airports is far more compatibly located than is the Santa Monica Airport. In fact, looking at these three, I just have to say: if I was the new FAA Administrator, I’d be quick to ask my new highly-paid subordinates:

“Why are we NOT working with the city to expedite closing this airport? After all, it is grossly incompatible with the community (look at all those houses, and so close to the runway!), it is clearly a health hazard, and we have plenty of other LA Basin airports and longer, safer runways to serve the business jets and general aviation, all of which are far below their historic high traffic levels. So, when are we going to start serving everyone, not just our buddies who employ us after we retire?”

20161201scp-ksmo-vs-kdkx-sat-views-w-rwy-lengths-comparing-airport-compatibility-impact-on-people

20161201scp-ksmo-vs-kpgv-sat-views-w-rwy-lengths-comparing-airport-compatibility-impact-on-people

20161201scp-ksmo-vs-kfwa-sat-views-comparing-airport-compatibility-impact-on-people


UPDATE, 12/6/2016: — per a request, click here for a PDF version of this entire Post.

Mora, MN: FAA Wasting Millions to Add a Crosswind Runway Through a Wetland & Wildlife Area

Here are some facts about one of the most egregious examples of FAA working to force an unneeded runway onto a local community – a case that even went all the way to the use of eminent domain to force landowners to sell their property:

  1. It is a common practice across the nation that FAA and the agents hired to develop and gain approval for airport improvements will repeatedly fudge the data, offering fictitious and unsupportable ‘estimates’ and projections. That has again happened in this case, for the Mora airport.KJMR.20160521.. crop of 'swans lifting off, crosswind RWY proposal area'
  2. FAA claims this airport averages 15,000 operations per year (20 landings per day), but FAA has no solid evidence to back this up. In fact, locals, including many pilots opposed to this proposal, believe the real activity level averages closer to 5 landings per day.
  3. This project would not even be contemplated if not for FAA offering an incentive in generous federal grants (derived mostly from airline passenger taxes) to enable local officials to look and feel productive.
  4. The proposed runway requires substantial grading and fill across an area of ponds and wetlands. This area is commonly inundated with thousands of geese, swans and other large birds.
  5. The wetlands are also a rare habitat for an endangered tree species, the Butternut. These trees will be destroyed during the grading, and future trees will be destroyed as part of a wildlife hazard management plan.
  6. There was an apparent conflict of interest in the last round of construction contracts at this airport. Historically, most of the FAA grants have been awarded to SEH Engineering, a firm that also handles many other contracts in Mora and other Minnesota communities. One of the SEH employees who most often negotiates plans with FAA and advises the city on those plans is a Mr. Joel Dresel. In late 2007, when the primary runway was extended another 800-feet to the current 4,800-ft length, the Mora City Council approved three payments totaling $1.5 Million; the recipient was ‘Dresel Contracting, Inc.’ (see pages 7-8 of this PDF compilation of Mora City Council minutes). Clearly, a contractor who stands to win contracts cannot be objective and should NOT be guiding an environmental review process.
  7. If FAA would be flexible, they could choose to forgive the City’s obligation to build this crosswind runway (perhaps with encouragement from elected officials such as Senators Franken and Klobuchar). In so doing, FAA would simply and reasonably justify that the roughly $100,000 spent was lost due to the decline in general aviation activity these past ten years, as well as the overall economic bust of 2008.

KJMR.20160622.. 'Plan view showing grading limits, mounds, butternut trees' (SEH Engineering, 'p.74 of Written Re-Evaluation of the 2004 EA)

(a page from the 2016 update of the 2004 Environmental Assessment, showing grading limits, a potential archaeological mound, and endangered butternut tree locations.)


KJMR.aerial view of airport, from Minnesota Airport Directory & Travel Guide, markedup
The following pages offer an extensive collection of documents and images (photos, maps, satellite views, etc.) covering roughly two decades of aviation impact activism at this quiet rural community.

pg.2: Document Archives [KJMR]
pg.3: Images [KJMR]

Two Reports Look at Impacts by the Air Freight Industry

Here are copies of two reports done by Rose Bridger and published by AirportWatch. The reports look at the Air Freight industry and its impacts in the UK. Those impacted include not just residents and communities, but also the environment: destruction of wildlife habitat and degradation of our atmosphere. I.e, just as it is in the U.S. and around the world, the fossil fuel consumption for air freight is significant, and is contributing to record CO2 levels and accelerated climate change.

Click on either document below for a scrollable view; PDF copies of the Impact Report or Report Supplement may also be downloaded.

A significant portion of air freight is carried in the cargo holds of passenger airliners. Thus, airports such as London’s Heathrow see additional pressure to max out their schedules. Enmity between airport authorities and impacted residents is only intensified, when public monies are used to promote airport expansion.

(click on image to view related articles at AirportWatch)

A pro-airport billboard, altered by activists. (click on image to view related articles at AirportWatch)