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Massport Weighs Path Toward Cutting Emissions .: The State House News Service

Massport Weighs Path Toward Cutting Emissions

Consultants Advise Board That Oversees Logan, Port of Boston

A pair of consultants told the Massport Board of Directors Thursday morning that the quasi-public agency would need to invest roughly $1 billion over the next 10 years to reach net-zero carbon emission by 2031. [Screenshot]

MARCH 17, 2022.....The Massachusetts Port Authority would need to invest roughly $1 billion over the next 10 years to reach net-zero carbon emission by 2031, a pair of sustainability consultants told the quasi-public agency's board of directors Thursday morning.

The scope of an investment that size would cover areas owned by Massport -- like Logan Airport's heating plant -- as well as those influenced and enabled by the agency like airlines, cargo vessels, and tenant vehicles. The timing would get ahead of the the state's goal of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Chad Laurent, a sustainability and energy expert with The Cadmus Group, said the state "desperately needs" Massport to do its part to achieve statewide net-zero carbon emission goals across all sectors of the economy.

"It also needs the airlines to help the commonwealth meet its goals as well as everyone else who is taking transportation to and from Massport," Laurent said. "So Massport plays a critical role in helping the commonwealth meet its 2050 goal."

As Massport looks to curb emissions, Carol Lurie, an airport sustainability consultant with VHB, said the biggest improvement could be made by tackling aviation fuel emissions, which make up 65 percent of CO2 emissions in the U.S. aviation industry. She recommended Massport officials switch out regular aviation fuel at Logan International Airport, Worcester Regional Airport, and Hanscom Field with sustainable aviation fuel.

"The sustainable aviation fuel, we feel given that it's such a major contribution to greenhouse gas emissions, would be a strong partnership, that is already started right now, that will not only benefit the airline industry [but] also benefit the community as well," Lurie said.

The Biden administration announced in September 2020 that it was setting a production goal of at least 3 billion gallons of sustainable aviation fuels by 2030. That goal would be paired alongside a sustainable aviation fuel tax credit as part of the administration's Build Back Better Agenda.

Massport-controlled greenhouse gas emissions account for 12.5 percent of total emissions across all Massport entities and facilities. That's because ground service equipment, on-airport traffic, ocean-going vessels, heavy-duty trucks, employee commuting, and public travel make up the rest.

Of the 12.5 percent, facilities and equipment account for more than half of Massport-controlled greenhouse gas emissions. Board member John Nucci questioned if a best-case scenario would see a $1 billion investment only reduce Massport greenhouse gas emissions by 12.5 percent.

That's one way to look at the issue, Lurie said, adding that many initiatives Massport would support as part of the investment "will also be leveraging the tenants and leveraging the other uses of the facilities."

To achieve net-zero, Massport officials would need to work with airline operators, tenants, and contractors to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. These are called scope three emissions, of which the largest portion is made up by aviation fuel emissions.

Laurent said the $1 billion investment would enable large reductions in emissions from tenants, airlines, and cruise ships.

"The investment, it isn't a direct link, because it's scope three, you need those entities to use renewable energy themselves and use sustainable aviation fuels," Laurent said. "But that billion-dollar investment includes initiatives that Massport can take that enables those entities to reduce their emissions as well."

Nucci said people have to admit "that's a bit of a leap of faith, right?"

"That it anticipates that airlines and the maritime industry will cooperate and be willing to do these things, but we can't control it," he said.

Massport CEO Lisa Wieland said many of Massport's partners like airlines or cruise operators are going to have to figure out how to comply with federal and state greenhouse gas emission standards in the future.

"Let's make sure we are reducing 100 percent of what we can control while simultaneously making investments, and forming partnerships, and coalitions that will help them and encourage them to reduce their emissions on an accelerated basis," Wieland said in response to Nucci. "But I think it'd be very hard to have conversations with them about here's everything you need to do if we haven't made the investments ourselves to reduce 100 percent of our emissions."

Nucci said he agreed with Wieland, but his concern is whether "we can walk and chew gum at the same time."

"We can make sure that we're meeting all of our obligations and doing everything we possibly could do with Massport, while at the same time providing strong advocacy towards the airlines to take measures themselves," he said. "I don't want to set up a situation where one follows the other. I think both can take place simultaneously."

Wieland said she "completely concurs" with that sentiment.

"The intention here is to say let's get our own house in order, let's take the right actions to do that," she said. "And simultaneously, let's figure out how we incentive and encourage reductions in scope three."


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