The Toronto Port Authority’s Environmental Assessment (EA) – The Scope
In late 2000, the Toronto Port Authority’s former president and CEO Lisa Raitt called for a general study of the airport to include an evaluation of the airport’s ‘potential to increase passenger usage’. Note that safety wasn’t mentioned.
In December 2001, the Toronto Port Authority (TPA) released the Sypher-Meuller Small Footprint report. The report’s interviews of the airport tenants figured a bridge first in their list of priorities in order to instill confidence in the airport’s future and encourage their investment.
In 2003, the Toronto Port Authority conducted an EA when it wanted to determine if it was environmentally appropriate to build a bridge to the island. The EA report described the scope thusly.
“The TPA (in consultation with other federal authorities) determined that the scope of the project is the construction and operation of a Fixed Link Bridge to the TCCA. The Fixed Link Bridge would provide access to the TCCA for emergency response vehicles.”
The scope did not include the effect on the future of airport growth and development. . It framed the EA as narrowly as possible as the port authority’s project notification document shows.
Interestingly, on March 19, 2003 the Toronto Port Authority issued a tender invitation for a fixed link to the airport.
This was before the TPA’s EA was completed. Indeed, the Toronto Port Authority didn’t sign off on the EA until October 1, 2003. The Globe story quotes Lisa Raitt: “We’ve concluded our environmental assessment, and we’ve taken the conclusion that the project is not likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects.”
Strange, she wrote pretty much the same thing in an email dated April 7, 2003 to then Community AIR chair Alan Sparrow:
“Although the TPA did not formally “sign-off” on that 145 page report, [ed. This was the EA conducted five years earlier in 1998] we were confident in the comprehensive nature of the process (particularly in light of the very extensive public consultation, in which we were a key participant) and its conclusion that “it is not likely that the proposed construction and operation of the [Fixed Link Bridge] will cause any significant adverse environmental effects”.
It appears that the TPA had already concluded the outcome of an updated EA six months before it signed off on the project. It must have reached its conclusion even before March 19; otherwise, why would it send out a tender before the EA was completed?
On June 17, 2005, the Toronto Port Authority oversaw an EA for the construction of new passenger terminal facilities and the purchase of a new ferry. This time, according to the October 2006 Review of Toronto Port Authority Report, the scope was expanded to include other activities beyond the construction of buildings and boats.
Dillon Consulting, working once again for the TPA considered airport volume. It concluded that road and air traffic and related effects (i.e., pollution and noise) would result from the better accessibility. Dillon based conclusions on an estimated 600,000 passengers a year by 2011. According to the Review of Toronto Port Authority Report, the Toronto Port Authority released Dillon’s EA study in January 2006. The study concluded that: “The EA predicts that neither the direct effects nor the cumulative effects of the [ferry passenger terminal facility] project would have a significant impact on the environment.” That was based on a projected 600,000 passengers by 2011, a figure the Review of Toronto Port Authority Report calls conservative. However, The TPA’s 2011 Annual Report counted 1.5 million passengers, two and a half times the number Dillon used for its conclusion under the wider scope scenario. It appears there is more than one way to skin a wider scope.
In 2014, the Toronto Port Authority is looking for a way to increase the length of the main runway, a project that could bring jets to the airport. The port authority’s Request for Proposal (RFP) establishes, at least in the minds of the RFP writers, the details of the port authority’s runway expansion EA.
At this point, the RFP says the TPA wants qualified help to better prepare,
“its examination of the current operations at Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport and the proposed extension of Runway 08-26 to allow commercial jet aircraft activity, in order to assess potential impacts of the proposed project on the environment … .”
The proposed project is the lengthening of the runway. The Toronto Port Authority wants to know the effect of lengthening the runway. That much is clear. What the TPA also needs to make clear is whether or not the proposed project also includes the jet activity and its effect on the environment.
The only other mention of jets or jet activity or jet aircraft in the whole document is in the “Scope of Assignment” and in that case the port authority cites why it is not required by law to carry out an EA since the 400 m extension to accommodate jets isn’t a designated project under the Environmental Assessment Act’s Regulations.
So is the effect of jet activity on the environment part of the proposal or not?
Interestingly, a question in that regard was posed and answered on a Swerhun Facilitation site that reported on the mid-November stakeholders information sessions.
Question 8 asks: Can the project name be changed to “BBTCA Runway
Expansion and Jets EA”?
The port authority’s response: This request is currently being considered. An update will be provided in time for the first public meeting on the EA Scope, planned for early December.
Isn’t it rather odd that the Toronto Port Authority released its RFP on April 29 and won’t know until December if the EA project name can be changed to include jets? It’s especially odd considering that the Toronto Port Authority knew the outcome of a previous EA six months before it was concluded.