Airports and the Environment

Oct 3rd, 2010 | By | Category: Analysis, News and Notes, Environmental Management

On September 21, 2010, the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued its report entitled “Aviation and the Environment: Systematically Addressing Environmental Impacts and Community Concerns Can Help Airports Reduce Project Delays.”

Key Findings

The GAO found that almost all of the airports it surveyed had taken some actions to address their environmental impacts in four key areas:

  • reducing noise levels
  • controlling water pollution
  • reducing air emissions
  • using environmentally sustainable practices

The implemented strategies included voluntary actions (e.g., asking pilots and controllers to lower noise levels through modified operating procedures) and actions required by federal and state laws (e.g., control of water and air pollution).

Larger airports, which can have more environmental impacts because of issues such as deicing pads, co-generation facilities and vehicle traffic, were more likely to take a wider range of actions such as soundproofing homes or installing loading bridges that supply aircraft with electric power.

The GAO also found that airports were moving toward a more holistic approach to environmental management, including following environmentally sustainable standards and implementing an environmental management system.

Project Delays

Surprisingly, fewer than half of the surveyed airports believed that environmental issues had delayed a development project or operational change at their airport over the last 5 years, even though the vast majority had undertaken a capital development project or operational change during this period. Likewise, fewer than half of airports believe that addressing environmental issues will cause delays in the next 5 years.  

About the Author

Steven M. Taber is an environmental attorney with the Irvine, California law firm Taber Law Group. A 1986 graduate of the University of Michigan Law School, Steve left a big firm environmental department to focus on providing cost-effective environmental representation to clients. Steve publishes “Environmental Law & Climate Change Law Blog,” which summarizes changes and happenings in environmental and climate change law. He also publishes “Aviation and Airport Development News.”

Photograph: Warning Airplanes by Kriss Szkurlatowski, Poland. See more photos at


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One Comment to “Airports and the Environment”

  1. Kriss says:

    nice to see my grahis on your page.

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