Austin City Council weighs pros and cons of building new jet fuel facility

A jet fuel shortage alert, that was triggered the day after NASCAR weekend, reminded the city that the airport will continue to get busier as Austin grows.

"When we have a fuel shortage alert, airlines are asked to take or carry extra fuel with them or have a risk of diverting out of Austin to fuel somewhere in a different airport. It's now in need of an additional two fuel storage tanks" said Jacqueline Yaft, CEO of Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.

"The current facility offers two to three days worth of fuel supply. The industry average is five to seven," said Yaft.

At a council work session, airport officials talked with council members about the proposed location for a new facility to be built on airport property near Highway 183 and the Barbara Jordan Terminal. But some residents are not happy about that location being so close to home.

"I’ve had a range of emotions from sad, to frustrated, to disappointed. When we look at the vision plan it calls for the relocation of Highway 71. We are willing to relocate a highway which is going to be complex, expensive and difficult to do, but when it comes to a fuel facility we are somehow not able to do that," said Vanessa Fuentes, Austin City Council member.

Fuentes said she is concerned this could be a repeat of a tragedy at an east side fuel farm in the 90s.

"It took 15 years to clean up and countless families were affected with high rates of cancer and poor health outcomes. Now some of those same families are organizing against this fuel tank farm," said Fuentes.

City officials said the proposed site underwent several assessments and environmental tests before being chosen.

"Lots of environmental permits are being required to operate the facility, lots of best practices, this is a heavily regulated facility," said Kane Carpenter, environmental manager.

Fuentes has a resolution on the table to delay the project and make the city find another site. Airport officials say the city cannot afford to wait any longer, due to Austin's constant growth.

"If we are to delay this project, at some point we will not be able to serve these flights and we risk losing these flights coming in to the city of Austin," said Yaft.

Council will take a further dive into the issue and vote on it at Thursday's meeting.

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