Rally planned ahead of hearing for Oakland airport expansion

The inside of the Oakland International Airport. (Courtesy of Port of Oakland)

As Oakland International Airport prepares for an expansion and modernization project to meet growing air travel demand, local climate activists are voicing concerns over the project’s environmental impacts. The Stop OAK Expansion Coalition, consisting of numerous environmental and labor groups, is planning a rally today in advance of a public hearing on the project.

The coalition is concerned with the greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution and noise associated with increased air travel at the airport. Speakers from the coalition plan to lay out those concerns at the rally, which will include food and art, set to begin at 5 p.m. at 100 Hegenberger Road in Oakland, down the road from the Hilton Airport Hotel where the public hearing is set for 6 p.m.

“We want them to hear that there’s a significant chunk of the population who is seriously looking ahead long term at the effects of this project,” said Lin Griffith, a member of the coalition.

Last month, the Port of Oakland released its draft environmental impact report for the expansion and modernization of the Oakland International Airport. The proposal includes modernizing Terminals 1 and 2, building a new 830,000-square-foot terminal building, and adding 16 additional passenger gates. However, the report highlighted the rise in greenhouse gas emissions and air pollutants because of the increased aviation activity as significant and unavoidable impacts, posing risks to airport workers in terms of toxic air exposure.

In terms of nearby residents, the report stated that the impact of toxic contaminants would be less than significant, but Griffith pointed to a 2019 study from the University of Washington that found “communities underneath and downwind of jets landing at (Seattle-Tacoma International Airport were) exposed to a type of ultrafine particle pollution” that has been linked to cancer, heart disease and other health conditions.

Dave Full, the project manager for the expansion and modernization, said at a virtual public hearing Tuesday morning that most of those emissions are from aircraft operations, which the port does not have the authority to regulate. The port is instead working on reducing the emissions of ground operations, which are under its control.

Irrespective of the ultimate decision-maker, Griffith stressed the urgency of addressing the climate crisis, which must include a steep reduction in air travel. Should the project proceed, she said local residents will be left to bear the brunt of the associated costs and consequences.

“Somebody needs to oppose this,” Griffith said.

The Port of Oakland has two more public hearings scheduled for Aug. 30 — one in person from noon to 1:30 p.m. in the International Ballroom in the Hilton Oakland Airport Hotel at 1 Hegenberger Road in Oakland and a virtual meeting from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Zoom information can be found at oaklandairport.com/terminaldevelopment a day before the meeting.

Public comments can be submitted until 5 p.m. Sept. 15 using an online form that can be found at oaklandairport.com/terminaldevelopment, by emailing TermDev@portoakland.com, at a public meeting or by mailing them to: Port of Oakland, Environmental Programs and Planning Division, Colleen Liang, 530 Water St., Oakland, CA 94607.

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