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AReCO in the News

Source: Daily Herald

By Jon Davis 

Date: February 23, 2005

Copyright 2005 Daily Herald


Debate over jet noise, emissions heats up


The debate over how an expanded O'Hare International Airport would affect the Chicago area's environment moved into a new arena Tuesday.

While proponents and opponents of Chicago's expansion plan argued, that venue, an Elk Grove Village banquet hall, coincidentally sat beneath a flight path that sent outbound planes overhead.

Proponents at the first of three hearings praised the Federal Aviation Administration's draft environmental impact statement and called Chicago's plan the best way to modernize O'Hare's runway configuration
and reduce its flight delays.

Opponents lambasted the draft statement as incomplete, derelict and deceptive, saying it ignores public health problems stemming from current airplane operations and under-estimates the problem once construction would be complete.

The final environmental impact statement is due in July, to be followed two months later by the FAA's "record of decision" on the O'Hare expansion project.

The 5,000-page draft report states the eight reconfigured runways at O'Hare won't result in an "appreciable" increase in the area bearing the brunt of noise. While six of the runways would point east-west, the report concludes only 2,000 more residences will have to deal with more jet noise.

Joe Karaganis, attorney for the anti-expansion Suburban O'Hare Commission, said the FAA failed to consider the project's true cost, wrongly assumes airlines will have the money to back it up, and "cooked the books" in making future flight projections.

The hearings, which continue from 2 to 9 p.m. today in Elmhurst and Thursday in Niles, are nothing more than "a dog and pony show," he Karaganis said.

"I think there's no question the die has already been cast" for expansion, Karaganis said.

Jack Saporito, president of the Arlington Heights-based Alliance of Residents Concerning O'Hare, agreed, adding the FAA failed to consider environmental problems created by airplane emissions and daily airport

The FAA must address those problems with a supplemental environmental impact statement before the final report is issued, he said. "The public is being deceived and is being left unprotected," he said.

FAA spokesman Tony Molinaro said the agency's environmental review process has been thorough and is not complete. No shortcuts are being taken, he said. "This is being looked at by Washington very, very carefully," he said.

This same process awaits the South suburban airport proposal, once Illinois officials submit airport layout and master plans, Molinaro said.

"We'll be putting a big team on that, too," he said. 

All the discussion and debate didn't help Schaumburg resident Erica Interrante much in making up her mind about O'Hare expansion, however. 

"I think it gives some credibility that there is some careful thinking behind it," Interrante said while examining large placards depicting runway configurations, land uses and air passenger demand forecasts.

"I don't really find I know enough to comment on it, but I am concerned about more people coming into the area in cars. It's already crowded," she said.

O'Hare: Opponents insist decision already has been made