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AReCO in the News

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Date: 7/10/2004

Copyright 2004 Daily Herald, Paddock Publications, Inc.

 

Environmental group seeks delay in O'Hare expansion

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A suburban group worried about the environmental effects of O'Hare International Airport is asking for a delay of airport expansion until new standards for microscopic pollution from aircraft are established.

But federal aviation officials say it's not going to happen.

In a July 6 letter to the Federal Aviation Administration, the Arlington Heights-based Alliance of Residents Concerning O'Hare said expansion should be delayed if the FAA can't explain how a larger airport would affect emissions of small particles of pollution expelled in airplane exhaust.

Jack Saporito, the group's executive director, said Friday no standards exist for the emissions and developing them could stall expansion indefinitely.

Federal authorities said studies of such emissions are already under way, and they are confident they'll be able to determine whether expanding the airport is safe for the environment.

At issue are particles of pollution less than three-thousandths of a millimeter in diameter expelled in airplane exhaust, and their cumulative effects on Chicago area residents.

Tony Molinaro, spokesman for the FAA's Great Lakes Region, said particulate matter studies are part of the environmental review process and "should be done by the fall."

A look at pollution particles of at least 10 microns (a micron is 1/1000th of a millimeter) is already under way and a study of particles 2.5 microns or smaller - the ones Saporito's group worries about - is pending.

That study will be done in conjunction with both the federal and Illinois environmental protection agencies, but it must wait while the federal EPA changes its guidelines for studies of smaller particles, Molinaro said.

"Whatever study ends up needing to be done, we'll do," he said.

Roderick Drew, public affairs director for the O'Hare Modernization Program office, said the city is continually looking for ways to lessen the airport's impact on the surrounding environment. To reduce airplane emissions, advocates must talk to airplane manufacturers, he said.

"The FAA is conducting its (Environmental Impact Statement) process. We'll continue to work with them to get them whatever information they need so they can issue a record of decision," he said.

The FAA's draft Environmental Impact Statement is due for public release in early 2005, followed by the final version in the summer. The agency's official decision on O'Hare expansion is scheduled to be announced that fall.