On April 1, 2014 city council required PortsToronto (PosTO) to conduct a rigorous environmental assessment (EA) on its airport expansion plans. PosTO’s EA may not be as rigorous as council requires.
The Role of the Noise Exposure Forecast
The Tripartite Agreement that governs Billy Bishop Toronto Centre Airport (BBTCA) operations includes matters relating to noise. For the airport’s and the Agreement’s purposes, the allowable amount of noise produced by flights is determined by a Noise Exposure Forecast (NEF), a computer generated projection that determines scenarios for the number of aircraft of various sizes that can land and depart daily.
The Tripartite Agreement requires PortsToronto (PosTO) to submit annually, as soon as the data becomes available to Transport Canada for calculation of that year’s actual NEF contours.
PortsToronto’s December 9 EA presentation cites the NEF several times in the context of the Tripartite Agreement and the airport’s master plan. However, the presentation does not make clear if the NEF contours are to be used in conjunction with the EA or if airport-generated noise will fall under a separate study.
Including NEF contours as evidence for the EA that the airport’s noise levels are within an acceptable range presents two problems. The first is that the most recent NEF contour study is five years out of date. The second is the connection between Transport Canada, PortsToronto and the consultants who produced the 2009 and 2010 NEF contour reports.
Genivar/WSP as PortsToronto Consultant
Genivar/WPS began life as two separate companies: Genivar, as Engineering Services firms, G.B.G.M. Ltd and Les Consultants Dupuis, Côté Inc. in Canada in 1959; WSP (William Sale Partnership) a building services consultancy in Surrey, UK in 1969. WSP and GENIVAR merged on August 1, 2012.
On January 1st, 2014, WSP and Genivar became WSP Global, reportedly to distance the Genivar name from the Quebec construction industry corruption scandal.
In June 2012, Genivar produced a draft Billy Bishop Toronto Centre Airport (BBTCA) Master Plan for PortsToronto.
On January 16, 2014 WSP, still using Genivar letterhead, submitted a modification of the 2012 master plan to PosTO.
On September 15, 2014 PortsToronto announced that WSP is part of a team working on a preliminary runway design as part of the Porter Airlines proposal.
On December 1, 2014 PortsToronto made available the WSP July 2014 updated airport master plan.
Given the amount of work thrown Genivar/WSPs way, one can assume PortsToronto was satisfied with the consultant’s efforts.
Genivar/WSP as a Transport Canada Consultant
WSP operating as Genivar produced the 2010 NEF Contour Study, the most recent one. On August 2012, the company submitted its study on the 2010 NEF contours to Transport Canada. This was two months after the company submitted its initial draft BBTCA Master Plan to PortsToronto.
InterVISTAS as PortsToronto Consultant
InterVISTAS started out as a the marketing & planning department of the
Vancouver International Airport Authority. The department was so good at selling airports, it was spun off as a new company to provide consulting services to the industry. Two years after the spin-off, the employees bought the company, called it InterVISTAS and never looked back.
In March 2012, InterVISTAS collected data for an economic impact study for PortsToronto that purported to show questionable benefits.
It should be noted that PortsToronto has also identified assessment of commercial opportunities as part of its EA.
InterVISTAS as Transport Canada Consultant
On June 1, 2011 InterVISTAS, along with UAL Urban Aerodynamics, produced the airport’s 2009 NEF countour study. Nine months later InterVISTAS would be compiling data for PortsToronto for its airport economic study.
Arms-Length Relationships and Appearances
The activities among the four entities are illustrated in the chart below. Can it be more than coincidence that the two signatories to the Tripartite Agreement closest to airport operations use the same consultants for their purposes? Don’t their interconnectedness and the time frames during which they conducted their activities raise questions especially with regard to the PosTO EA.
To dispell any suspicions, PortsToronto would be well advised to seek further studies on noise and economic opportunities from other equally qualified consultants, especially with an eye to to a 2014 NEF contour study.