Quiet-List 1997

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Re: FAA and Air Force Conduct Noise Study

We have seen this type of "fairness" with most of the airport expansion plans.
Look how they "fairly" deal with environmental issues in regard to open
meetings.  BTW: This is occuring around the world.
Sierra Club Miami Group

Alan Farago Phone 305 662 2870

For Release 9 a.m. EDT,  December 17, 1997
Press Release

Disgraceful development: Florida’s threatened ecosystem, the Everglades,
and a secret meeting leading to massive airport
Miami, FL—

(December 17) Florida environmentalists say they are stunned by recent
reports in The Miami Herald and New Times, an area news weekly, that a
secret meeting that could determine the fate of the Biscayne National
Park attended by half a dozen federal agencies, a U.S. Senator, and
Miami Dade officials was deliberately kept from public scrutiny.

According to the published reports, environmentalists were excluded from
the November 25 meeting, held in Senator Graham’s Miami office, where 30
attendees were asked not to take notes or speak to anyone about the
contents of the meeting. U.S. Senator Bob Graham, a proclaimed backer of
Everglades protection, admitted that he, himself, had been lobbying
against an environmental study which would publicly disclose
environmental impacts from a planned commercial airport on America’s
most threatened national parks: Everglades National Park and Biscayne
National Park.

The specter of a massive airport on the edge of the Everglades casts a
shadow over the national park system. The precedent has turned this
military base reuse into a national environmental cause and headache for
federal agencies, politicians, and campaign contributors.

Alan Farago, conservation chair of the Sierra Club Miami Group, said,
“We ask the President to explain to the American people why his
Administration is so reluctant to enforce the laws protecting our
National Parks. Why must the White House make secret apologies for
thinking about complying with the National Environmental Policy Act?"

According to New Times, six different sources who attended the November
25 secret meeting testified that White House officials were leaning
toward further studies because “the original environmental impact
statement, which was prepared by the Air Force in 1993, was deemed to be
no longer adequate.” But witnesses say the outrage in Senator Graham’s
office stunned federal officials. Miami Dade Mayor Alex Penelas and
Senator Graham (via speaker phone) said that focusing on the developer’s
plans for the commercial airport, to be built within two miles of
Biscayne National Park and ten miles of Everglades National Park, was
unfair. They insisted that the plans presented by the developer, HABDI,
were not representative of the county’s intentions.

But the Federal Aviation Administration based its 1996 approval of the
Homestead Air Base redevelopment on the HABDI plan. HABDI has stated
publicly and in official records that it plans to construct a second
runway and build hotels and warehouses around the airport.

Environmentalists scoff at the notion that Miami Dade County—at this
late date—has separated itself from the developer. Wearied by more than
a year of planning for an development permit required by state law,
environmentalists point out that HABDI lobbyists controlled the county
position through tortuous negotiating sessions even though county
attorneys were present.

According to the Herald article, Graham characterized the additional
environmental study, recommended by top Cabinet lawyers including the
Federal Aviation Administration, as excessive. “Seems to me we’ve got
half a century of experience of what the environmental impact is,”
Graham told the Herald. Environmentalists have stated that
pie-in-the-sky promises and political miscalculations are solely
responsible for any delays in the productive use of the air base as an
economic generator.

The Homestead Air Base is an EPA Superfund site. Rainfall on the former
base flushes through the most polluted canal in Miami Dade into state
lands and a national park. The Sierra Club Miami Group recently funded a
technical report showing dramatic faults in the federal environmental
impact statement for the air base. The Club has also endorsed concerns
raised by another local environmental group, Friends of the Everglades,
relating to public safety, given the planned airport’s proximity to a
nuclear power plant.

Graham, who more than a year ago stopped a government investigation of
the proposed airport’s impacts on the Everglades, delivered an emotional
speech at the 50th Anniversary Celebration of Everglades National Park
on Saturday, December 6, stressing that restoration efforts were of
paramount importance to his office. Citing the work of environmentalists
Marjory Stoneman Douglas and Ernest Coe, Graham said, “That is part of
being a friend of the Everglades. Because when we’re fully satisfied, we
have not set our sights high enough.”

In a related story, the New York Times earlier this year identified a
Graham ally, Miami lawyer Marvin Rosen—former finance chair of the
Democratic National Committee—as having used his influence to gain
support for federal permitting approval for HABDI, whose principals are
executives of the Latin Builders Association, major campaign
contributors in South Florida.

For Sierra Club, the Homestead airport plan is the most egregious insult
to the national park system in a growing list of refuges, public lands,
and National Parks impacted by aircraft noise. Citing broken promises to
protect National Parks from aircraft noise and restore natural quiet,
Sierra Club director Carl Pope recently wrote to President Clinton, “Our
experiences at Grand Canyon, the Everglades, and other places around the
nation, show the results of weakened federal authority, and how
abdicating authority for protecting public resources to the states and
local jurisdictions will not protect the public interest.”

More than 230,000 flights per year are anticipated by the new airport at
Homestead, in the first phase of the airport operation.

Barbara Lange, vice president of Friends of the Everglades, an
organization founded by Marjory Stoneman Douglas over another battle
over an airport in the Everglades in the early 1970’s, said, “What
folly. These secret meetings with political campaign supporters have
served one good purpose: to show that the federal government's decision
process is now so tainted that the White House plans to use Miami Dade
County to turn federal property over to the airport developers will
never withstand legal scrutiny. The fact that six out of 30 people at
Senator Graham’s meeting leaked it to the press, despite being sworn to
secrecy, shows that even the insiders are outraged.” > END

Referenced articles:
Herald, Sec. B1 Local, December 10, 1997.
“AIR BASE CONFIDENTIAL” by Jim Defede, Miami New Times, December 11-18,
“A FUND-RAISER FACES TROUBLE” by Jane Fritsch and Douglas Frantz, The
New York Times, January 10, 1997.
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