The 2023 legislature's Engrossed Substitute House Bill 1791 (ESHB 1791) was set to continue the site search, with some better community involvement, better specificity as to excludable areas, and in the larger context of all modes of transportation than its predecessor, all the while continuing to harp on capacity shortfall claims that are sourced from the industry itself, lacking explanations to the public.
Of course, the industry wants to continue to grow as before, as if more cruise ships in the Port of Seattle (people taking cruises fly in for or out from them), and faster air cargo is climate
resilient, as if the aviation industry can continue to fake a substantive, timely contribution to greenhouse gas reduction goals, as if a new large airport benefits the local economy or the public at large, as if a new commercial airport is sure to bring relief to SeaTac communities.
The governor signed ESHB 1791 this past Monday, May 15, but vetoed large sections of it.
In his Veto Letter, the Governor asks new State Commercial Aviation Work Group created by the bill to look for additional commercial capacity at local airports first. Further, he asked the current ad hoc airport search commission, the Commercial Aviation Coordinating Commission (the CACC), which was just about to make one final site-recommendation from two in Pierce County and one in Thurston County, to refrain from doing so. The CACC automatically disbands on June 30, 2023.
In reality, and not what the Governor, the CACC, the industry, or any of the newspapers want to report: the population has said No to another large commercial airport several times before, with solid data and thoughtfulness, yet unsuccessful with the SeaTac third runway expansion. Things have changed, though. We are experiencing climate change in our back yards and in our pocket books, we have scientific studies about harmful health effects in airport communities, including at SeaTac, and we know that aviation’s direct contribution to greenhouse gas inventories is more than 10% in Washington, and 28% in the City of Seattle, with which it far outpaces any other transportation mode.
Multiply that by three, to get the warming effect.
This veto was a surprise. Open conversations about the pros and cons of aviation expansion continue to be overdue. In today's economy where wealth does not trickle down, is instead enriching major corporations, their shareholders and top management, in an economy where full employment means minimum-wage jobs for the many, certainly at airports, and where price gauging is called inflation, it may turn out that aviation is not as beneficial or needed as the industry and its politicians like to claim.
The veto is hopefully a door opening to policy that benefits the many, including local airport communities, such as around SeaTac. Thank you to the citizens who have stepped up to the plate to fill in for those who should be representing them, and thank you to civic engagement groups in greater Seattle and around SeaTac, who enabled scientific research and are influencing our congressional representatives and the Federal Aviation Agency (FAA).
~ Ursula Euler, resident of Thurston County
The opinions above are, of course, those of the writer and not of The JOLT. Got something you want to get off your chest? Post your comment below, or write it up and send it to us. We'll likely run it the same day we get it.
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