Synthesis Topics

Airports' Experiences in Application and Execution of Emissions-Related Federal Grants

The proposed work will be a synthesis of current and previous experiences of airports that have been utilized the federal grants to reduce the emissions levels at their respective areas.

Background (Describe the current situation or problem in the industry, and how your idea would address it.)

Two of the regulations that airports air quality managers have to ensure that their airports are compliant are the Clean Air Act (CAA) and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The Clean Air Act (CAA), the overarching air quality law in the U.S., authorizes the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as the responsible agency for setting the air quality standards. The EPA identified six criterial pollutants that are to be managed or limited to protect the public health and the environment from the effects of the outdoor air pollution. The identified pollutants are nitrogen dioxide (NO2), carbon monoxide (CO), lead (Pb), particulate matter (PM), ozone (O3), and sulfur dioxide (SO2). The EPA set the both primary and secondary concentration limits for these pollutants; these limits are known as the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). The concentration limits for these pollutants were established based on various health and scientific studies. Primary and secondary NAAQS standards for these criterial pollutants were set to protect the public health and the environment respectively. Applying the NAAQS values and the most recent air monitoring data, the EPA works with the states to designate areas based on whether or not they are meeting the NAAQS. Areas whose outdoor ambient monitored concentrations are within the NAAQS are designated as attainment areas while areas whose outdoor ambient monitored concentrations are above the NAAQS are designated as non-attainment areas. A non-attainment area whose air quality has improved and as a result meets the NAAQS will be classified as a maintenance area. For non-attainment areas, individual states are required to develop and maintain plans also known as State Implementation Plans (SIPs); the SIPs act as instruments in which states use to implement their strategies to help the non-attainment and maintenance to comply with the NAAQS. On the other hand, the NEPA requires that federal agencies (including the Federal Aviation Administration – FAA) to account for environmental impacts from their actions including loans, grants, leases, permits or approvals of projects or plans. Most airports construction projects which rely on FAA approval and/or funding are impacted by the NEPA. The NEPA also requires airports to assess the Greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions; the gases include carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), sulfur hexafluoride (SF6), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), and perfluorocarbons (PFCs). As of recent, about 25% of the commercial airports are located in either non-attainment or maintenance areas.
Sources of emissions at airports can be categorized as mobile and stationary. Mobile sources include aircraft, auxiliary power units (APUs), ground vehicles, and ground support equipment (GSE). Stationary sources include but not limited to utility plants, vehicle charging facilities, heating and cooling systems, emergency generators, parking lots, refueling stations, de-icing and anti-icing equipment and facilities. Airport ground-based operations have been one of the contributors of ground-based carbon dioxide (CO2) and other green-house gas (GHG) emissions into the atmosphere. To reduce emissions from the sources, airport operators initiate both operational and technical strategies. Technical strategies have involved airports undertaking clean technologies projects with the goal of improving the air quality. Examples of these strategies include acquiring zero or low emissions vehicles and GSE, reducing energy consumption, installing new compatible renewable energy systems, purchasing renewable energy, or purchasing carbon offsets. Over time, airports have developed innovative approaches to eliminate or reduce the emissions levels resulting from airport operations. The need to reduce the ground-based emissions levels at an airport has been one of the key drivers for airports to also launch sustainability initiatives. Some of the realized outcomes of these sustainability initiatives in large airports have been reduction in particulate matter emissions, reduction in carbon dioxide emissions per year, potential revenue increase, and compliance with state regulations regarding emissions levels.
Federal, state, and local programs are also available to help airports afford the emissions mitigations projects. Some of the accomplishments by airports from utilizing these grants have been operational savings, reduction of emissions levels, and accumulation of emission credits which could be utilized for future capital projects. The Voluntary Airport Low Emissions (VALE) program was established in 2004, through the Vision 100 Legislation, to support commercial airports located in non-attainment areas or maintenance areas. Funding from the VALE program normally cover up to 75% and 95% of the eligible renewable projects for large or medium hubs and small or non-hub airports respectively. Airport sponsors whose projects are successful can use the Airport Improvements Program (AIP) funds and Passenger Charge Facility (PFC) revenue toward these eligible renewable energy projects. Eligible airport projects types under this program include alternative fuel vehicles, gate electrification, remote ground power, ground support equipment (GSE), and geothermal systems. Since the introduction of the program in fiscal year 2005, about 95 successful projects have been funded at various airports. These projects represent only one-third (1/3) of all the eligible commercial airports that could utilize this program. Although there are other available sources of funding for emission mitigation projects, federal grant programs are vital to help airports cover the financial gaps towards completing these projects. It is therefore important for airport operators to understand how to successfully apply and execute these federal grants. Similarly, the FAA's Airport Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) and Infrastructure Pilot Program provides eligible public-use airports with an opportunity to use the Airport Improvement Program (AIP) funds to purchase zero-emissions and related infrastructure for airport usage. Airports located in non-attainment areas are given higher priority to airports located in maintenance or attainment areas. Successful airports, under the ZEV program, obtain grants to cover up to 50% of the cost of the zero-emission vehicles project and the associated infrastructure.

Objective (What is the desired product or result that will help the airport industry?)

The objective of this synthesis is to provide comprehensive examples and experiences of the airports that have successfully applied for and obtained Federal grants for the purposes of lowering the emissions levels at the airport. The synthesis will provide the detailed examples of the how the successful grants applications have been developed and approved based on the process defined by the grants' programs. The synthesis will help airports operators to familiarize with common financial and process barriers to successfully obtain grants to fund emission mitigation projects.

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Idea No. 257