Investigation of environmental justice analysis in airport planning practice from 2000 to 2010

Municipal airport owners and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regularly evaluate capacity and demand to decide if and when airports need more infrastructure. New infrastructure can alter the profile of noise, emissions, and land use, which may affect the quality of life for airport-adjacent communities. When the FAA and airport owners initiate infrastructure expansion, they must conduct environmental justice analysis to measure the distribution of negative externalities on nearby communities. This research investigates the environmental justice methodologies and narratives reported in planning documents for nineteen airport capacity expansions planned or deployed from 2000 to 2010 in the United States. The mixed-methods approach analyzes airport operations data, spatial demographic data, and planning artifacts to determine whether the environmental justice analyses were robust. This research proposes alternative metrics, the ‘Risk of disproportionate impact’ and ‘Capacity strain’, to further contextualize the presence of protected population groups alongside capacity needs. The main finding of the study is that the planning documents did not consistently detect environmental justice impacts, nor did they consistently confer importance to those impacts when high proportions of protected populations were detected. As a result, the social costs of collective airport expansion are unclear and likely underestimated. This study identifies two limitations that undermined the environmental justice analysis throughout the airport sample: (1) inconsistent methodological choices impeded the detection of impacts and, (2) narrative interpretations tended to ‘null’ the finding even when impacts were detected.


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  • Accession Number: 01736433
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Apr 21 2020 10:11AM