Environmental concerns over expansion plans at San Jose airport

Officials say Mineta San Jose International Airport is poised to become a perennial hub for Bay Area flyers for years to come.

“Since 2013, Mineta San Jose international airport’s passenger traffic has increased by almost 80%,” said airport spokeswoman Rosemary Barnes.

She said over 15 million travelers used the airport last year. Three percent growth is expected for the foreseeable future. As a result, officials seek the city council’s approval to revamp their master plan. Their wish list includes adding a new Terminal C with six additional gates, building 11,000 parking spaces, and construction of an on-airport hotel. The upgrades would serve passengers through 2037 when officials expect 22 million travelers.

“I’m happy to be talking about airport expansion because we know we’re bursting at the seams. On the other hand, I am mindful that there are recessions. And so we’re gonna do this very carefully to make sure we don’t get into a lot of debt,” said San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo. 

While the mayor and others are watching the potential fiscal impact of airport expansion, environmentalists say a growing SJC could have a negative impact because it’ll lead to a larger carbon footprint.

“We need to reduce carbon emissions in the Bay Area. And we need to reduce them dramatically. And so anything that increases carbon emissions is a concern to us,” said Greg Nudd, district deputy air pollution officer for the Bay Area Air Quality Management District.

Officials at the district say choked freeways and growing airports have already impacted the environment. Tuesday afternoon, some residents voiced concerns to councilmembers, over the conflict between growth and good environmental stewardship.

“Circling jets does create its own problem. But overseas we’re seeing a great rethinking of traveling by air,” said one attendee.

Mayor Liccardo says planned growth will come with changes designed to benefit the environment, and the growing South Bay population.

“An incentive program to encourage airlines to use electric and hybrid and low emission fuels on the ground fleets,” said Liccardo.

This, as this city tries to balance the need of more air travelers with the need to help lessen the environmental impact.