SFO expansion may be exempt from state environmental law

The Associated Press
Monday October 02, 2000

SACRAMENTO — A proposed expansion of San Francisco International Airport would be exempted from California’s main environmental law, under a bill signed Saturday by Gov. Gray Davis and authored by the leader of the Senate. 

The bill by Sen. John Burton, D-San Francisco, also calls for a study into a joint management scheme for the San Francisco and Oakland airports that could include linking the facilities by high-speed rail and ferry. 

Backers of the expansion plan, including San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, believe the airport is overcrowded and requires new runway space to handle an increasing number of passengers. 

The proposed expansion would add another runway to the airport. 

Burton’s bill allows San Francisco to bypass some rules of the California Environmental Quality Act if it proceeds with a plan to buy and restore 18,000 acres of salt ponds near Newark in exchange for the damage to the Bay inflicted by building another runway. 

The bill essentially gets San Francisco off the hook to produce a second environmental review of the 18,000-acre wetlands restoration in just a year. The federal government will instead perform the review, which airport officials said they couldn’t finish in such a short time. 

San Francisco officials and the Federal Aviation Administration are studying how the expansion will affect the Bay and the surrounding communities. That study might be complete by the summer of 2001. 

Environmentalists have opposed plans for extending runways at San Francisco International Airport because of concerns over dumping landfill into San Francisco Bay.