Expanding Tweed puts Lamont’s economic agenda against environmental justice goals

As state officials and business leaders line up to support expansion plans for Tweed New Haven Airport, two neighboring cities, New Haven and East Haven, struggle to unequally share the project’s economic benefits and environmental costs. are fighting over

Gov. Ned Lamont has been vocal in his support of the plan so far.

“This is how we open up the state. It’s a very important project.”

But if the economic benefits of expansion are clear, a recent survey of hospital and emergency department visits by DataHaven, and questions of federal, state, and local officials by CT Examiner show just how serious project proponents are. It raises important questions about what is being studied or considered in Possibility of health hazards to neighboring residents.

Both New Haven and East Haven qualify as “environmental justice” communities, a term that takes into account the poverty and racial composition of the census tracts, and under federal executive orders through 1994, such as the Tweeds Expansion. critical projects should be identified and addressed. The human health and environmental impacts of its programs, policies and activities on minorities and low-income groups are disproportionately high and harmful.”

Environmental justice has also become a key point for the Lamont administration and Democrats in the state legislature.

However, according to a DataHaven study, New Haven residents are more than twice as likely to be hospitalized for asthma or to visit the emergency department for asthma, about 60 per 10,000 people, more than twice as likely as the state average. In the East Haven district, which is directly adjacent to the borough, the number is almost three times the state average, or about 174 per 10,000.

A 2021 review of the impact of commercial aviation activity on air quality by employees of the Federal Environmental Protection Agency found that ultrafine particles rose around airports and were associated with lung inflammation in asthmatics. rice field.

Asked by a CT examiner about the impact of the expansion on public health in the area, Save the Sound attorney Chris Kelly said East Haven residents have a right to feel uneasy.

“A lot of people are worried because they live in areas that are more polluted and facing more problems than the rest of the county,” Kelly said. “They want more information about what this really means for them.”

Kelly also said New Haven County has the highest levels of air pollution in the state, which should spur air quality monitoring in Tweed.

Community activist Lorena Venegas said she was surprised when the expansion was announced in May 2021. what did we sign up for? Asked Venegas (CT Inspector)

That’s what New Haven resident and environmental justice advocate Lynn Bonnet has asked state officials to do.

Bonnett plans to install air monitors at Clarity, an air sensors company, and have UConn students analyze the data. This costs him about $1,000 per year per monitor and $50,000 in research funding with universities.

Bonnett told the CT Examiner that members of the 10,000 Hawks opposing the expansion asked Sean Scanlon, executive director of the Tweed Airport Authority, to help the group install air quality monitors at the airport. Scanlon said he declined.

In a series of phone and email conversations with the CT Examiner, Scanlon acknowledged being approached about monitoring air quality and said it was open to the idea, but said it was unable to obtain air quality data from airports. questioned the usefulness of collecting

“It’s important to consider that air quality monitoring stations tell us the level of emissions, but not the source,” Scanlon said in an email. “Given our location’s proximity to both a busy port and interstate, it’s impossible for that monitoring station to determine what’s coming from the airport.”

McFarland Johnson, Inc., which contracted Tweed to complete environmental assessments of its projects, relies instead on computer modeling.

The Federal Aviation Administration, which is overseeing the review, did not provide substantive responses to email inquiries regarding environmental impact data obtained at Tweed.

But according to Charles Rothenberger, climate and energy attorney at Save the Sound, computer modeling is only as accurate as the data that informs the simulations. Rothenberger suggested using handheld air pollution monitors to provide high-quality real-time data.

Home on Stuyvesant Avenue in East Haven, back to Tweed Airport (CT Examiner)

New Haven Mayor Justin Ericer, who supports the expansion, also supports installing air quality monitors around Tweed, and said he has discussed the idea with the state’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

“It’s difficult to know exactly where the pollutants are coming from, but understanding what the air quality is like in that area can help us respond,” says Elicker. says Mr.

Erichker also acknowledged that residents of both New Haven and East Haven are at increased risk of respiratory disease, but in a telephone interview with CT Examiner, he sees economic development as a means to improve the health of local residents. I claimed.

“Improving New Haven’s economy and creating more jobs for people will also improve health outcomes by making health care more accessible to people,” said Elicker. .

In addition to deepening the waterway at the Port of New Haven, redeveloping Union Station, and providing direct access to Interstate 95, Tweed will increase access to the city and its economy, Erichker said.

Current Avello destinations for flights from Tweed. (Source: https://flytwed.com/destinations/)

Scanlon acknowledged that many residents have concerns about the expansion, but said most of the community supports the airport, based on Tweed’s polls and ticket sales reports.

“East Haven is in the top five ticket buyers in the entire state, so people are supporting it with their wallets,” Scanlon says.

Edith Pestana, the state official in charge of DEEP’s environmental justice oversight, acknowledged that it has received many complaints about the airport’s emissions from residents adjacent to Tweed, but the environmental assessment falls under the FAA’s mandate. Therefore, her jurisdiction is limited.

“If there is an illegal air release coming out of the property and affecting the community, we will respond,” she told CT Examiner. “But at this time, there are no standards for jet fuel.”

Pestana said the EPA also controls jet fuel emissions. She said she will forward the resident’s complaint to the EPA.

“We have no teeth on the game,” said Pestana.

Asked for “comments or concerns regarding environmental justice issues regarding the Tweed-New Haven Airport expansion,” Lamont spokesperson Anthony Anthony asked CT Examiner DEEP for comment.

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