Frontline airport-impacted communities aren’t impacted only by aviation noise, but also by air pollution associated with airport operations, as well as a never-ending stream of traffic. “Green” airports might be like “green” coal plants, but some airport greening projects could offer some benefits to most-impacted communities.

According to Anne C. Mulkern in Scientific American, the State of California passed a mandate requiring zero-emission buses and shuttles at major airports. The mandate:

It requires by 2035 a switch to zero-emission vehicles at 13 airports: San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, Sacramento, San Jose, Oakland and Ontario International, along with commuter airports in Orange County, Burbank-Hollywood, Long Beach, Palm Springs, Fresno and Santa Barbara.…The California rule would require fleets to have 33% ZEVs by 2027, 66% by 2031 and full compliance by 2035. It would apply to vans, buses and similar vehicles that run a regular route of up to 30 miles in length and that use a depot site up to 15 miles from the airport.

But the fundamental issue here is significant ultrafine particulate matter emissions during airport takeoff and landings. Researchers found that the air quality impacts of Los Angeles Airport equaled that of Los Angeles’ entire urban freeway network:

These results suggest that airport emissions are a major source of PN [particle number] in Los Angeles that are of the same general magnitude as the entire urban freeway network. They also indicate that the air quality impact areas of major airports may have been seriously underestimated.

Researchers in Southern California are continuing to analyze the different ways that air pollution from automotive and air traffic affect local residents.

In the face of a problem so large, reducing emissions from a small fleet of airport vans and buses seems like an incredibly small step in the right direction, and maybe a good use of airport improvement program funds.


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