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Massport and aviation groups respond to concerns regarding the hangar expansion project

Nov 29, 2023

In response to recent press about the Hanscom private luxury jet hangar project, Massport has issued a formal written statement to the press with six key points, and the Massachusetts Business Aviation Association published a letter on Oct 7, 2023 in the Boston Globe with additional claims. Each of those points is addressed:

Massport says: One of our primary missions is to support Massachusetts-based businesses by providing the infrastructure they need to compete in the global economy.

This is the legitimate purpose of Massport and is provided by commercial aviation infrastructure, such as Logan provides. However, providing infrastructure for private luxury jets to travel to resort destinations  while generating obscene amounts of greenhouse gases is not necessary to allow businesses to "compete in the global economy." The primary economic result from this activity is selling millions of dollars of jet fuel and selling luxury aircraft, neither of which is made here or benefit the Massachusetts economy.

Massport says: This project is a response to existing demand.

"Demand" is not the same as public need. The Commonwealth has an urgent existing demand for housing for both low-income and homeless people. But instead of building such housing, the Commonwealth has elected to build subsidized housing for private luxury jets (hangars). The government has confused its priorities and forgotten the people is supposed to serve.

Massport says: The proposal includes numerous sustainability features, including a LEED Gold, or better, certified design, a high target for energy efficiency and net zero energy, photo-voltaic solar roof panel systems, rooftop and pavement materials that reduce urban heat, and, resiliency measures to protect the site and adjacent parcels from potential future flooding.

None of the features discussed will mitigate or reduce any of the environmental damage caused by the private luxury jet flights this project enables. They are designed to offset the environmental impact of the hangar buildings. Consider the proposed solar panels: if every inch of the roofs of the proposed project is covered (wildly impractical), they will generate 1.8 MW which will offset approximately 850 Tons of CO2e per year. That sounds impressive, but this benefit is canceled out by only 44  private jet flights per year (20 tons per flight), which represent a fraction of the expected flights caused by a single based aircraft residing in one of the proposed hangars. These environmental claims about the buildings on the ground are completely insignificant compared to the environmental consequences from the resulting jet traffic - they are misleading propaganda intended to green-wash the project and distract from the exorbitant greenhouse gas emissions.

The only way to avoid generating huge amounts of additional greenhouses gases is simple: don't build this project.

Massport says: The project is still in the MEPA process. There will be a public process before anything is finalized.

Massport developed this project without public input and it only became known when state law required its disclosure, in the form of an Environmental Notification Form. Hundreds of official comments about the project have been received by the Secretary of Environmental Affairs stating that this project has not disclosed the greenhouse gas impact of the resulting flights. Massport considers themselves exempt from the Commonwealth's climate goals and exempt from any finding of adverse impact by MEPA process.

Massport says: Massport has made a number of efforts over the years to decarbonize aviation. As part of our ambitious roadmap to becoming Net Zero by 2031, last week we announced a consortium with MIT, Boeing, Pratt and Whitney, Delta Airlines, and World Energy to work collaboratively across the aviation value chain. The proposed Hanscom project does not go against Massportís commitment to our neighboring communities and the environment.

Massport's plan for "Net Zero by 2031" is only for activities on the ground, which are minuscule compared with aircraft emissions. They completely and inexplicably ignore their largest source, jet flight emissions, which they plan on growing.

Note the use of the word "efforts" in describing their actions. Not plans, pledges, commitments, or accomplishments. This referenced group intends on "convening, educating, and strategizing" about Sustainable Aviation Fuel, a theoretical alternative fuel which has been described in the aviation industry as "Sustainable aviation fuel is just really is. It's nonsense and I think somebody needs to say it is for what it is." (Breeze Airways CEO David Neeleman.) Massport knows that none of the described kinds of public relations activities will have any effect on the greenhouse gas emissions they knowingly intend to create and grow. Instead of dealing with the emissions, they attempt to cover them up with greenwashing.

The MBAA says: "Companies such as Boston MedFlight and New England Donor Services use their aircraft to provide lifesaving care to patients."

Boston Medflight relies mainly on helicopters and has only a single private jet. This single aircraft is a type of beneficial public use that is clearly justified. It is hardly a justification for greatly increasing the 40,000 private luxury jet operations primarily servicing resort destinations such as Palm Beach, Aspen, Nantucket, and St. Thomas.

The MBAA says: According to a 2019 economic impact study completed by the Aeronautics Division of the state Department of Transportation, this industry employs more than 199,000 people in Massachusetts, provides $24.7 billion in economic output to the Commonwealth, and contributes $1 billion in taxes to the stateís coffers.

This is a completely false statement. This study was for commercial airports serving passengers and does not claim to represent the benefit of private luxury jets.  According to an FAA report, the amount of economic benefit of private luxury jets is negligible. The main economic activity of private luxury jets is selling jet fuel and aircraft, neither of which benefits our economy.

The MBAA says: "Our industry takes green initiatives seriously. The use of sustainable aviation fuel is poised to grow from $1 billion in sales currently to $131.1 billion in 2033."

There are multiple problems with this statement. 

First, sustainable aviation fuel only makes up .1% of jet fuel production and is only available blended at tiny quantities into fossil jet fuel. There is no fossil free sustainable aviation fuel available for purchase in the foreseeable future. 

Second, there are no aircraft certified to operate on fossil free sustainable aviation fuel. 

Third, the production of sufficient sustainable aviation fuels to supply the aviation industry would consume a sizable fraction of the earths arable cropland. Destroying forests to create more cropland for use growing sustainable fuel results in more greenhouse gases than if fossil jet fuel is used.

Fourth, there is no forecast predicting anywhere near the levels cited; sales are highly constrained because the cost is 2.5X fossil jet fuel and rising.

Finally, the most important issue is that "sustainable" fuel when burned generates as much or more greenhouse gas emissions than normal jet fuel does. It is only "sustainable" to the extent that it is derived from biomass. While biomass does consume some CO2 during growth, lifecyle GHG emissions for sustainable fuel made today is only around 10% less than fossil jet fuel. For this reason, sustainable aviation fuels "are not eligible under the proposed ReFuelEU Aviation GHG reduction program."

The MBAA says: We should not be concerned with emissions because "Most of the emissions from business aircraft flights occur outside our state borders."

The claim that greenhouse gas emissions don't matter because some of them are outside our state is ridiculous. The local users of private luxury jets enabled by projects like this one are responsible for these emissions. The fact that the effects of these jet emissions are global, and not just local, is hardly an excuse for generating them.

The MBAA says: "These aircraft are used by leaders of our local companies to cement relationships and drive business."

This claim is proven false. They are used by a very few wealthy people, who are not our "leaders" except they lead in conspicuous consumption. The data shows they primarily travel to resort destinations. While some are owned wholly or in part by individuals, others are provided by companies as a luxury benefit for extremely wealthy executives and their families.

The same story is used over and over to cover up these inexcusable emissions. Aviation interests claim private luxury jets are used for important business meetings creating our economy; meetings that the average person must accept and cannot understand. The truth is that these jets are used by the .001% at the pinnacle of wealth to travel to resort destinations. At the same time these owners furiously work to hide the ownership and destinations of their aircraft as part of the deception. Private Jets are a luxury that the climate cannot afford.

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