Arguments Heard over Logan Airport Runway Injunction

MARCH 21, 2002

The battle over expanding Logan International Airport came closer to an end yesterday when a Superior Court judge heard arguments on whether a 28-year-old injunction against a new runway should be lifted.

Lawyers for the Massachusetts Port Authority, which runs Logan, told Suffolk Superior Court Judge Margot Botsford that the court originally ordered the injunction because the agency hadn't obtained an environmental permit for a new runway in 1974.

Massport's lawyers said the rationale for the injunction no longer exists because the state issued a permit for the new runway eight months ago. "The 1974 injunction was based solely on the failure of the 1974 project," said Mark Pearlstein, a Massport lawyer.

Massport and proponents of a sixth runway think it will reduce delays, but opponents say it will add noise and dirt without making air travel more efficient.

Lawyers from communities that oppose the new runway -- Boston, Chelsea, Winthrop and Somerville -- said the injunction should remain. A lawyer representing the anti-runway group Communities Against Runway Expansion said the request to lift the injunction was premature because Massport still hadn't fulfilled some of the conditions of the permit. Those include a plan to implement a program to ease congestion at the airport and a mandatory cap on emissions of nitrogen oxide, or NOx, which causes smog.

The Federal Aviation Administration has also not completed a study on the proposed runway's impact and whether it will reduce delays, as Massport has promised, said Peter Koff, a lawyer for project opponents. "We think Massport's case has been brought prematurely," Koff said.

Assistant Attorney General William Pardee, representing Environmental Affairs Secretary Robert Durand, said the injunction shouldn't be lifted until the nitrogen oxide cap and the plan to reduce congestion were implemented.

A decision, expected in a matter of weeks, may hinge on whether runway opponents failed to oppose the environmental permit within the 120 days required by law.

"We say they should be dismissed because they're untimely," said Massport attorney Roscoe Trimmier, Jr.

Community activists, who filled the courtroom, said they'd oppose the runway even if the injunction were lifted. "We're going to fight them no matter what," East Boston resident William Manning said.

Source: Associated Press