ORGANIZATIONAL AND ISSUE INTRODUCTION
The Alliance of Residents Concerning O’Hare, Inc. (AReCO), based in Arlington Heights, Illinois, is a globally known, well-respected, Chicago area organization that has been at the vanguard of airport and aircraft related public health and environmental issues since the mid-nineties. AReCO is the leading organization protecting the public's health, safety and welfare related to key transportation projects. Locally, AReCO's membership represents communities and members in 42 communities.
Unique to any other, AReCO has membership with varied interests from
"both sides of the fence", which certainly tells the story about the organization.
Nationally and internationally, our colleagues and members include environmental experts, scientists, physicians, and even many individuals who are employed in the aviation and aerospace industries. Those include: pilots, air-traffic controllers, employees of NASA and aircraft manufacturers, Williams Aviation Consultants and many others, such as the well-respected Baylor University's School of Aviation and Air Sciences. As a result, we have extensive and up-to-date working knowledge of the issues and bring strong, factual evidence to the table.
We have successfully sued and won settlements against airports (including O'Hare), making them comply with the Clean Water Act. We have brought a myriad of significant environmental problems to the attention of the EPA, media and global community, including the United Nations and World Health Organization. We have a vital interest in assuring that the aviation industry complies with full disclosure, all environmental laws and regulations and all other aspects that relate to the protection of citizens’ health and safety, our environment and quality of life.
The industry and airport expansionists consistently try to minimize the impacts of airports and aircraft. One example of the harm that has been abhorrently understated by the federal government can be found in a study commissioned by eight states environmental agencies and overseen by the U.S. EPA ("Controlling Airport-Related Air Pollution"). That study found that the United Nations and U. S. government were grossly underreporting the amounts of deadly pollution coming from airports/aircraft.
For example, combined aircraft-related amounts of benzene totaled 20 tons at Logan, Bradley, and Manchester airports in 1999! In comparison, total benzene emissions from the largest stationary sources in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New Hampshire combined only totaled six tons in 1996! Benzene is a known human carcinogen (IARC 1982a,b.) Even more astoundingly, mega airports, such as Chicago's O'Hare, operate more aircraft annually than all of the three above-mentioned airports combined, thus, emitting even more harmful and even deadly pollution in heavily urban-populated areas.
AReCO is concerned that the nationwide aviation modernization plan and its local incarnations, such as the O’Hare expansion (“modernization”) project, in addition to the many reported horrible consequences, are nothing more than a huge drain on our economy and not in the traveling public's best interest.
Sadly, as the air transportation industry was flagging in the late 20th century, the misguided planners and their “handlers” (e.g., the FAA) of the old O'Hare expansion plan didn't understand that flying many more jet aircraft was not in the cards for early 21st century. This was partially because of the events of 9-11 (changing flying habits) but more importantly, because jet aviation is not sustainable with current business models, growing oil shortages and pollution driven climate change. Jets are known to be one of the most significant causes of manmade climate change, due to contrail generation and chemicals emitted directly into our upper atmosphere.
Jet travel is important for long distances; however, a large percentage of major hub airport and O'Hare flights are regional and only average about 70 miles per hour door-to-door. There are better, viable and more competitive transportation modes available that are much faster.
Aircraft design technology will take decades to advance and be implemented sufficiently to where commercial jet aviation becomes more sustainable. In addition, urban-trapped airports will not experience any significant technological improvements oriented toward substantial reductions in air/water and noise pollution as they charge forward with capacity expansion plans thinly disguised as “modernizations”.
In the mean time, there are intelligent steps that Chicago (and others) can take that will really modernize the metropolitan air transportation system and retain Chicago's title of "our nation's transportation hub". Such steps include placing a much stronger emphasis on world-class intermodal transportation, such as medium and high-speed rail, that would link O’Hare airport to other airports (becoming a “virtual hub”) and building a new airport in a less populated peripheral area. Such an airport can function as a “Wayport” carrying much of the transfer traffic (i.e. connecting passengers, mail, cargo), as well as heavy freighters and the new giant transports e.g. A-380 (to keep their 85,000 gallon fuel loads from threatening urban centers), etc.
Given these steps, O’Hare (and other urban-center airports) could be truly modernized with a strong focus on major environmental compatibility and safety improvements.
Citizens of the entire region would benefit if the Illinois state (and/or other states) governments would remove their self-imposed blinders and see that investments in new technologies and methods would pay vastly greater dividends in jobs, revenue, environment, tourism, etc. than “more of the same” archaic approaches to transportation. Such investments might include high-speed rail research technology “parks”, perhaps allied with existing facilities like Argonne Labs and schools like University of Illinois and manufacturing facilities. These types of investments, supported with federal government funds saved by better-directed airport actions, would have potentially huge technology spin-off benefits to the citizens, instead of just more airport concession stands and waiting rooms.
There ARE better ways...
1-According to its own and independent figures the O'Hare expansion plan (OMP) will increase all-weather delays not relieve them as claimed;
2-According to Chicago Air Traffic Controllers and the Department of Transportation the plan will decrease runway and airspace safety;
3-An audit shows the true costs of published O'Hare expansion projects to be approximately $67 billion (Sixty-seven billion dollars!);
4-O'Hare airport-associated operations now cause significant damage to the health of over 5.5 million people living near O'Hare;
5-Just the costs of O'Hare related cancers amounts to $8 billion annually alone even though cancer is not the worst airport-poisoning disease;
6-A U.S. General Accounting Office study shows not to expand O'Hare (for a short-term aviation fix but for our long-term capacity needs but to modernize our whole transportation system, which would in turn modernize O'Hare intermodally);
7-Jets are a major cause of climate change and governments and the United Nations are being called to reduce flights and develop alternatives;
8-O'Hare airport is responsible in whole or part for the deaths of at least hundreds of people each year caused by only one of the dozens of known airport-diseases, cancer.
* Evidence, data, documents, etc. are available upon request.
* Many of the dire occurrences that the air transport industry and its customers are experiencing now can be found in a publication written in 1993, "A Vicious Cycle: How Can The Government Justify Expanding Airport Capacity To Solve An Overcapacity Problem?" (www.areco.org), which accurately predicted the events and is a good gage for what will be occurring in the future.