United Airlines and O’Hare Invest Big in Zero-Emissions Ground Support with Grant from EPA

by | Feb 14, 2018

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(Photo Credit: Eric Salard, Flickr Creative Commons)

United Airlines and the Chicago Department of Aviation (CDA) will invest a total of $1.43 million to purchase 26 new pieces of zero emissions ground support equipment, replacing older, diesel-fueled equipment at Chicago O’Hare. Grant funding for the project from the EPA’s Diesel Emissions Reduction Act — a total of $640,000 — will help O’Hare and United Airlines to save a total of more than 1.4 million gallons of diesel fuel and reduce emissions of CO2 by more than 16,000 tons (as well as other byproducts of fuel emissions).

The grant will help the CDA and its airline partners continue transitioning the ground support equipment fleet from fossil fuels to cleaner alternatives; the existing fleet is now more than 25% alternatively fueled. The CDA has been awarded nearly $18 million in grant funding since 2011 to reduce emissions from cars, trucks, aircraft auxiliary power units, and aircraft support equipment.

United, the largest carrier at O’Hare, recently ranked number one among all global carriers in Newsweek’s 2017 Global 500 Green Rankings, the company says. In 2016, the carrier became the first US airline to begin using commercial-scale volumes of sustainable aviation biofuel for regularly scheduled flights.

Additionally, United will continue to replace its eligible ground equipment and service vehicles with cleaner, electrically-powered alternatives, with nearly 40 percent of the fleet at O’Hare converted to date.

Airports are increasingly taking responsibility for their own emissions and working to improve environmental performance. The Airports Council International’s Carbon Accreditation Annual Report 2017 shows that more airports than ever are signing on: the number of participating airports around the world was up 21% over the previous year. The number of subscribers grew from 156 to 189 airports, covering nearly 40% of global air passenger traffic.

In addition to its emissions reduction efforts, O’Hare improves its environmental management by using goats, sheep, llamas, burros and alpacas to maintain landscaping across the airport’s 8,000 acre property, according to ABC News. The grazing herd benefits the airport’s environmental initiatives by reducing the need for mowers and other landscaping equipment and by helping repel problematic wildlife by eating the plants they need to survive.

O’Hare also has a vegetated roof on the air traffic control tower administration building and hosts apiaries in its large swaths of green space, helping with the resurgence of honeybee colonies.

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