Seatac Airport Expansion: Bad for South Seattle and the Climate

More and more of my friends are limiting or stopping airplane travel, and others are just beginning to question the morality of flying in an age of climate change.  Apparently they are not alone — this recent NY Times piece suggests that conscientious people all over the country are thinking the same thing. The truth is that for many citizens, flying is the single biggest portion of their greenhouse gas footprint. See here.

Meanwhile, here in our backyard, the Port’s “Sustainable Airport Master Plan” indicates that the Port of Seattle plans to expand the airport, and run perhaps twice as many flights from Seatac. This would create twice as much noise and air pollution in the neighborhoods under the flight paths. New evidence makes it clear that airport exhaust is a very significant local air pollution issue.  A new study of LAX found that airport emissions cause a four fold increase in particulate emissions, even 10 kilometers downwind from the flight path. The report concludes that “the air quality impact areas of major international airports may have been seriously underestimated.” See here.

Locally this cause is heating up.  Adam Smith, our federal Congressman, is calling for a national study. See here.  UW scientists are also studying air quality around Seatac. See here.  El Centro de la Raza is working on an environmental justice project which focuses on airport pollution. See here. And 350 Seattle is also exploring a campaign to fight airport expansion.

In Seattle, the impacts of airport pollution are on poorer communities and communities of color located in south Seattle and other south King County communities. For the most part, the people in these communities cannot afford to fly often, yet they are the most harmed. Meanwhile wealthy communities, with lots of frequent fliers, are located in areas that are mostly unscathed by airport pollution. This is a clear and present example of environment injustice.

To find out more about how to get involved contact Andrew via