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Secretary Ray LaHood Remarks as Prepared Airports Going Green Conference Chicago, Illinois

Good morning.  Thank you for the introduction and welcome.

I think it’s altogether fitting that we’re talking about “airports going green” in America’s greenest city.  And if you’re wondering why Chicago is America’s greenest city, you need to look no further than Mayor Daley.  Because of your leadership, Mr. Mayor, Chicago has established its place among the most environmentally friendly big cities anywhere.  You’ve left an extraordinary legacy – and set a powerful example for urban leaders across the country and around the world.

Now, I’m proud to represent President Obama and his administration at this important conference on sustainable airport planning, construction, operations, and maintenance.  And I’m honored to pay tribute to all the local innovators – from both the public and private sectors – who are designing and building 21st century facilities that solve 21st century challenges.

There’s no question that we must all become better stewards of our natural resources and climate.  But cities and states have long been laboratories of reform.  And as I travel across the country    – I’ve now visited more than 100 cities and 40 states – I can’t help but notice the significant changes taking place.

Airport after airport – from San Diego, to Dallas Fort Worth, to Ithaca New York – has taken steps to advance the cause of sustainable development.  Denver employs one of the largest solar power systems at an airport today; Albuquerque is building another atop its parking garage.  Both Los Angeles and Philadelphia have instituted cutting-edge water filtration and recycling systems that are saving money and protecting local ecosystems.  And, just today, the Chicago Department of Aviation affirms its leadership role by unveiling its updated Sustainable Airport Manual.  Congratulations to those of you involved.

For our part, DOT and the FAA also are committed to helping America’s airports “go green.”  That’s why we funded work on O’Hare’s North Tower complex, which will increase the airport’s energy efficiency by 20 percent while also reducing water use and carbon emissions.  And that’s why the FAA is supporting a number of initiatives that point the way toward progress. 

The FAA’s Voluntary Airport Low Emission – or VALE – grant program is perhaps the most exciting portfolio.  Through the VALE program, we have provided $83 million to 40 innovative projects at 22 different airports nationwide.  At Seattle-Tacoma International – Sea-Tac – we’re helping to install a centralized heating and cooling system that pumps heat or air conditioning into parked planes. This allows them to shut down their auxiliary power units at the gate -- and substantially reduces carbon emissions.  At the Portland International Jetport and Knox County Regional airports in Maine, we’re helping to build the nation’s first geothermal airport heating and cooling systems.  And at Boston-Logan, we’re helping to purchase 50 new low-emissions buses to shuttle passengers to a new consolidated rental car facility.

But VALE is hardly the only thing we’re working on.  The FAA’s CLEEN program – that’s Continuous Lower Energy, Emissions, and Noise – has awarded $125 million so far to develop new jet engine, airframe, and jet fuel technologies.  The FAA’s Office of Airports has a pilot program underway that’s helping ten airports, nationwide, to prepare sustainability master plans.  It will ultimately inform similar work at airports of all sizes in communities across America.  The FAA’s Airports Cooperative Research Program is exploring the feasibility of integrating alternative jet fuel production facilities at or near airports.  And in Los Angeles, the ground service equipment for eight airlines will now be fueled with renewable diesel -- made from grass clippings and other organic waste – because of the FAA’s Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuels Initiative.

The point is: We get it.  We get that improving energy and water efficiency at America’s airports is one essential way for us to protect our health, environment, economy, and national security.  We know that conferences like this – and innovative efforts like yours – are charting new a course toward environmental sustainability.

There’s no silver bullet.  We can’t just wave a magic wand and end our reliance on oil or solve the climate crisis overnight.  But because you’re showing us what works – because you’re shaping ideas that airports everywhere will eventually apply – you are making an enormous difference.

So, share what your airport is doing.  Share what you’ve learned.  Ask questions.  Listen to new ideas.  Come up with some new ideas of your own.  But know this: President Obama is behind you.  The Department of Transportation and FAA are behind you.  And, together, we will ensure that airports across America are more economical, more efficient, cleaner, and greener. 

Thank you very much.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011