Reinventing SMAAC— beyond airport noise

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Later this Summer, the South Metro Airport Action Council (SMAAC) will celebrate its 40th Anniversary and the District Court’s order that the Metropolitan Airports Commission must provide noise mitigation equal to its own meager promises even if the airlines object. (If it were responsible to do so, we could declare success and retire.)

Forty years ago, soon after the Metropolitan Airports Commission was created and the first jetliners rolled up to the new terminal in close sequence, neighbors began asking: “What can be done about airport noise?” The South Minneapolis Airport Action Council was organized to advocate for disturbed city neighborhoods.

Every step toward economic growth led to more air transportation; every increase in service led to more overflights. The Dual-track studies law, enacted in 1983, suggested solutions based on projected growth and costs of investment. Neither a new airport nor an expansion of MSP was a clear-cut choice. SMAAC, already a center of information on noise abatement and noise litigation, took up the noise and pollution solution debate.

Today, MSP is busier and more congested at peak hours than before expansion. In an era of limited investment by airlines and government, it remains the smallest airfield supporting a major hub. The hub caters to connecting passengers and our hub airlines limit economy seats available to local travelers, gouging Minnesota businesses and reducing state tourism. The public cannot count on federal airline regulation, state enforcement of environmental laws, or access to the Metropolitan Airports Commission to seek redress of grievances.

Citizens need to organize and act more than ever. The SMAAC Board has adopted the following:

NEW MISSION STATEMENT for SMAAC:

• to advocate for air and ground safety for airport workers and travelers at and around the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport;

• to seek vigorous enforcement of environmental regulations and minimize ground, water, air and noise pollution, and to suggest Federal and State legislation when needed for this purpose;

• to promote more low-cost air service and airline competition through more transparent decision-making at MSP and by publicizing unfair airline marketing practices, sweetheart contracts, and monopolistic cartels;

• to enhance Minnesota’s economic future by supporting all responsible domestic and international providers of reliable air passenger and cargo service.

It is not our observation alone that MSP expansion as it has transpired missed several of its goals. Instead of lower fares and better service, we have a fortress hub; instead of reduced noise and pollution, we have meager mitigation; instead of local employment, we have outsourcing; instead of a 25 percent increase in annual flights, we have 125 percent more at peak hours. Clearly 9/11 and additional security needs interrupted the 1997 plans. Airline bankruptcies, the war in Iraq, and crude oil prices all severely disrupted expansion and expansion finances.

But MSP expansion is what it is. Much work remains to make MSP an acceptable neighbor. SMAAC needs more help, new expertise, and wider participation. MSP neighbors’ voices need to be heard at the Metropolitan Airports Commission and by City Councils, the Minnesota Legislature and by the FAA and Congress.

For more information, contact the Board of Directors or visit http://quiettheskies.org.