Philadelphia Int'l Earns Environmental

Nicole Nelson
Published in: 

Teamwork between the airport and airlines has enabled Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) to secure the most Voluntary Airport Low Emissions (VALE) funding of all airports nationwide during 2008 - about $4 million, in total.

To date, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) funding has subsidized 75% of the differential cost of three hybrid vehicles and 75% of the total cost for 20 electrical re-chargers for airline ground service equipment, reports Calvin Davenger Jr., PHL's deputy director of aviation, planning and environmental stewardship. VALE funds have also been applied to the purchase and installation of 11 pre-conditioned air units in Terminal A-East, Davenger adds.

Nationwide, the VALE program has grown substantially every year. In 2006, it distributed $6 million to airports; $32 million worth of grants is anticipated this year.

Facts & Figures

Project: Voluntary Low Emissions (VALE) Initiatives

Location: Philadelphia International Airport

Funding Received: Approximately $4 million

Project Specifics: $23,473 for three hybrid vehicles $202,160 for 5 electrical re-chargers for United Airlines, $451,950 for 15 electrical re-chargers for US Airways, $3,258,668 for the purchase/installation of 11 pre-conditioned air units in Terminal A-East

Prime Consultant: AECOM Air Quality

Subconsultant: Jacobs Consultancy


PHL's involvement in the FAA VALE program began in late 2005. AECOM, its on-call planner, and air quality subconsultant Jacobs Consultancy began the process by studying all of the emission-generating activity at the airport and identifying priority areas where emissions could be reduced in a cost-effective manner.

Given the airport's ongoing capacity enhancement program, the scope of the work was substantial and multifaceted, notes AECOM associate vice president Larry Bauman. "Because the proposed construction and ensuing development would have an impact on air quality through increased emissions," Bauman explains, "we were anticipating a significant requirement that will be imposed on the airport by the EIS (Environmental Impact Study) record of decision to mitigate emissions in order to build."

Participating in the VALE program, he notes, has allowed the airport to earn "extra credit" for implementing air quality improvement projects before they were required.

"Because the City of Philadelphia is in a non-attainment area for air pollutants, notably ozone, it raises the priority in the eyes of the FAA in funding significant projects that lower air emissions," Bauman explains, noting that VALE projects are eligible for funding under the AIP environmental set aside.

Two of the airport's four VALE projects involved assets it doesn't own: ground service equipment (GSE). So before PHL could convert the equipment from diesel to electric power, it needed buy-in from the airlines that own it.

Jacobs Consultancy presented the airlines with specific data about what the conversion project would cost the airport and the airlines - a sensitive area associate director Darcy Zarubiak jokingly compares to the Mason-Dixon line. "We went through very robust cost-benefit information," says Zarubiak. "The economics are very solid. If airlines can make this commitment, they can reap the rewards for the next 20 years and recoup their investment after just 3.5 to 4 years. There is no question this is financially advantageous for the airlines."

At a time when the airlines are not making money, the PHL team convinced United Airlines and US Airways to invest in the emissions lowering project.

According to Zarubiak, United led the way because it knew GSE electrification was "a winner." Getting VALE funding made converting ten of its diesel bag tugs a slam-dunk. US Airways dipped its toe in the water with an initial 34-GSE piece order and later committed to another 184-GSE project, for a total conversion of more than 200 units.

"These projects result in large emission reductions which provide significant benefits for the residents of the Philadelphia region," notes Zarubiak. "And these projects generate emission reduction credits the airport requires to support ongoing capital development at the airport."

The V is Key

The challenge with VALE is that the V stands for voluntary. Philadelphia is undergoing a major environmental impact study that encompasses an array of capital projects including a new runway, terminal enhancements, access improvements and other developments. When the record of decision is issued for the capital projects, the associated air quality mitigation projects are no longer voluntary and are therefore ineligible for VALE funding.

With a record of decision originally anticipated on January 1, 2010, PHL thought its VALE funding opportunities were complete. A delay in the process, however, may provide a chance for additional funding in 2010.

During 2009, the airport initiated a 184-unit GSE conversion project that was broken into two parts - purchase and installation. PHL received funds in February 2009 for the $2.642 million purchase of the rechargers. In September 2009, the airport received bids in anticipation of a second grant for 75% of the $8 million cost to install the rechargers.

"Until the grant assurances are decided, you can't say it is a done deal, but we are feeling very optimistic," reports Zarubiak.

PHL has another 2009 VALE application running in parallel to the GSE electrification project: pre-conditioned air units for 24 gates at Terminal F. The airport has already received 75% funding for the first part of the project, which totaled $1.32 million. Zarubiak expects the next portion, electrical infrastructure, to cost well over $5 million, for which the airport will seek 75% VALE funding.

Future Projects

While the conversion of United and US Airways' GSE vehicles is significant, there are another couple dozen carriers at PHL still running "dirty" diesel equipment. Undaunted, PHL is working with all of its carriers to secure commitments for electrification projects. Reactions have been mixed.

Other plausible VALE funding projects, says Zarubiak, include hydrant fueling carts and the installation of ground power to the US Airways hangar complex to alleviate auxiliary power units. A "clean" shuttle bus service is also being assessed to further reduce greenhouse gas and carbon emissions.

Ground Support

2022 Charlotte Douglas International Airport Report of Achievement

Giving back to the community is central to what Charlotte Douglas International Airport and its operator, the City of Charlotte Aviation Department, is about, and last year was no different. 

Throughout 2022, while recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, we continued our efforts to have a positive impact on the Charlotte community. Of particular note, we spent the year sharing stories of how Connections Don't Just Happen at the Terminal - from creating homeownership and employment opportunities to supporting economic growth through small-business development and offering outreach programs to help residents understand the Airport better.

This whitepaper highlights the construction projects, initiatives, programs and events that validate Charlotte Douglas as a premier airport.

Download the whitepaper: 2022 Charlotte Douglas International Airport Report of Achievement.



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