PRESS RELEASE: Save the Sound to appeal FAA’s Tweed decision

Inadequate environmental assessment ignored significant threats 

New Haven, CT — Save the Sound will appeal the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) decision accepting the Environmental Assessment (EA) and Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) on the proposed expansion of Tweed New Haven Airport, the New Haven-based environmental organization announced Tuesday evening. 

Dramatic flooding at Tweed during storm Elsa. Increased paved area and destruction of wetlands is likely to worsen flooding, Save the Sound believes. Photo courtesy of 10,000 Hawks.

On December 21, 2023, the FAA issued a final decision approving an EA finding that the proposed Runway 02-20 Extension and Terminal Expansion project at Tweed New Haven Airport would have no significant environmental impacts and declined to require a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). Save the Sound had previously submitted comments to the FAA addressing the Draft Environmental Assessment’s substantial flaws and calling on the FAA to complete a full EIS. Numerous other concerned parties, including municipalities, residents, and federal and state governmental agencies, submitted similar comments. The Final Environmental Assessment addressed few, if any, of the concerns raised and made no meaningful changes.   

Pursuant to 49 U.S.C. § 46110, Save the Sound will be appealing the FAA’s decision to finalize the Tweed Airport Expansion’s woefully inadequate EA and its failure to require a full EIS under the National Environmental Policy Act.  

Roger Reynolds, senior legal director at Save the Sound, said, “This failure to study the true impacts on the community is an environmental injustice to the surrounding neighborhoods. As we have been saying for two years, this project demands the greater scrutiny of an Environmental Impact Statement. The gross inadequacies have been pointed out throughout the process not only by Save the Sound but by the EPA, the Department of Health and Human Services, CT DEEP, the Town of East Haven, multiple environmental organizations, and the neighbors who will be directly affected. The environmental assessment was widely criticized as fundamentally deficient, but the FAA’s ‘finding of no significant impact’ failed to remedy these shortcomings, and instead accepted the severely flawed document almost in its totality. Given this disregard, and the significant impacts to air quality, wetland destruction, water quality degradation, and flooding that the proposed expansion may entail, we have no choice but to appeal the decision.” 

Deficiencies in the EA previously noted by Save the Sound and others include that the EA (1) failed to consider the true impacts to environmental justice, air quality, wildlife, and water quality because they failed to discuss the reasonably foreseeable increase in demand for airline and cargo services due to the expanded runway, parking, and terminal; (2) failed to analyze the impact on tidal wetlands because they failed to consider the reasonably foreseeable cumulative impact of taxiways which will be a necessary safety feature of the extended runway; (3) failed to meaningfully consider water quality impacts and potential mitigation; (4) failed to meaningfully consider specific wetland mitigation; and (5) failed to meaningfully analyze the flood control consequences of the project.   

Most remarkably, the EA concludes that expanding the airport will be better for air quality than not expanding the airport, based on an assumption that expanding the airport’s capacity will not increase passenger demand for flights. Under this assumption, the EA notes that using larger aircraft means fewer planes will be needed to cover passenger demand, and that fewer planes mean lesser impacts. The whole point of the expansion, however, including a vastly expanded parking lot, is to increase the airport’s use. The increased capacity will logically lead to more flights (both passenger and freight) from larger airplanes which will worsen air quality and increase environmental impacts.  

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