PortsToronto (PosTO) has two events planned around its environmental assessment (EA). They will likely reveal PosTO’s strategy in using the EA to get the city’s approval for airport expansion.
PosTO’s EA Events
The first is an open house drop-in on Saturday, January 24 from 9:30 am to 4 pm. The second is on Monday, January 26 from 6:30 pm to 9:30 pm. Both events are at Metro Convention Centre, South Building, Room 714, 222 Bremner Blvd.
The all-day Saturday session promises to expose the public to ‘the preliminary list of potential effects and assessment methods’. The Monday evening session is to welcome public feedback. PosTO feels the ‘volume and complexity’ of their information is too great for the public to handle in one session.
At PosTO’s public Meeting #1, PosTO made quite clear its authority.
PosTO, formerly The Toronto Port Authority, as owner and operator of the airport, will:
• examine the potential environmental, social and economic effects of implementing the proposal;
• provide the information required by City Council;
• assess the commercial opportunities.
A Backdrop to the EA
It’s this last bullet, PosTO’s authority as owner and operator of the airport, to ‘assess the commercial opportunities’, that has the potential to trump the potential environmental and social effects of an expanded airport.
PosTO claims that it is conducting the EA as a follow-up to the request of its tenant, Porter Airlines to lengthen the airport runway. A lengthened runway is vital to Porter’s expansion plans to increase business by flying jets across the continent.
Increased business for Porter means increased business for PosTO with more passengers paying more airport improvement fees and larger aircraft generating greater landing fees.
With PosTO’s 2012-2013 airport income stalled and revenues needed to pay for tunnel costs, why wouldn’t PosTO forgo economic considerations for things as secondary as environmental and social concerns?
What might attendees look for at Saturday’s open house drop-in? Three things: mitigation, mitigation, mitigation.
PosTO has already looked at noise barriers as mitigation. Look for what the EA says about mitigating:
- problems caused by increased passenger volumes;
- problems caused by increased airport service requirements;
- problems caused by increased fuel delivery and storage problems;
- increased possibility and dangers of bird strikes;
- increased degradation of the neighbourhood air quality;
- effect of jet operations on nearby water quality.
The all-day Saturday session promises to expose the public to ‘the preliminary list of potential effects and assessment methods’.
Is there a problem should the PosTO’s preliminary list of potential effects contain mitigation measures for one of more of the concerns listed above or should one or more of them be deemed insignificant?
In the case of PosTO, given its past performance with EAs, there just could be. In addition, if a PosTO letter to Transport Canada even before the EA began is any indication, there is definitely a concern. NoJetsTO obtained a copy of the letter which asked for a technical review on the expansion program’s feasibility and gave a heads up that PosTO would be requesting the expanded runway’s preliminary approval. Any bets on the EA’s outcome?