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The Carbon Market: A Primer for Airports (2011)

Chapter: Chapter 1 - Introduction and Background

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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 1 - Introduction and Background." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2011. The Carbon Market: A Primer for Airports. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/14607.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 1 - Introduction and Background." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2011. The Carbon Market: A Primer for Airports. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/14607.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 1 - Introduction and Background." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2011. The Carbon Market: A Primer for Airports. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/14607.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 1 - Introduction and Background." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2011. The Carbon Market: A Primer for Airports. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/14607.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 1 - Introduction and Background." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2011. The Carbon Market: A Primer for Airports. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/14607.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 1 - Introduction and Background." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2011. The Carbon Market: A Primer for Airports. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/14607.
×
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 1 - Introduction and Background." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2011. The Carbon Market: A Primer for Airports. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/14607.
×
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 1 - Introduction and Background." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2011. The Carbon Market: A Primer for Airports. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/14607.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 1 - Introduction and Background." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2011. The Carbon Market: A Primer for Airports. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/14607.
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This Primer is intended to: 1. Provide a comprehensive overview of the evolving greenhouse gas (GHG) credit or carbon credit and related markets. 2. Describe the role airports play in these markets. 3. Identify areas where U.S. airports may be able to participate and capture additional revenue or other forms of reputational or environmental stewardship value from these markets. In this arena, and for the purposes of the Primer, the term “carbon” is used interchangeably with GHG. Carbon value generation can come in many forms—new and enhanced revenue streams, as well as risk (regulatory and reputational) reduction and avoidance. Airport sponsors of certain project types have the potential to realize additional revenues and capture other forms of value. Four case studies were prepared as part of this Primer. To date, few airports have sought addi- tional revenue streams from carbon reducing projects and investments. The case studies examine actual projects implemented at airports and explore how airports might seek additional revenue from various carbon reducing activities. The principal focus of the Primer is identifying value generating opportunities for airports offered by carbon markets. However, in order for airports to identify areas of potential value, a general understanding of carbon markets and their instruments is required. The Primer is organized to provide the user background on carbon markets, carbon instruments, and the current state of carbon markets for context and is followed by content to inform airport participants how to ultimately implement carbon related initiatives. Scientific data suggest that anthropogenic or human-caused GHG emissions are increasing the Earth’s temperature and altering atmospheric patterns. The Intergovernmental Panel on Cli- mate Change (IPCC) concluded in its Fourth Assessment Report that “Most of the observed in- crease in global temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to observed in- crease in anthropogenic GHG concentrations” (Solomon 2007). This is placing significant pressure on governments, businesses, and individuals to reduce GHG emissions. Reducing car- bon emissions has the potential to come at great cost. Market-based programs are popular pol- icy frameworks that provide a flexible means to reduce GHG emissions and meet overall reduc- tion targets while minimizing the overall cost. “Cap-and-trade” programs are a common market-based program employed to reduce emissions. 5 C H A P T E R 1 Introduction and Background

1.1 Overview of GHGs 6 The Carbon Market: A Primer for Airports Key Takeaways for Airports • GHGs are compounds that retain heat and at elevated levels have been linked to warming the Earth’s temperature. • Airport sponsors can control and influence the release of GHGs from a variety of sources and activities undertaken onsite, but the majority of GHG emissions at airports are tenant-controlled. • Airport sponsors may be eligible to “earn” offset credits by reducing GHG emissions. GHGs are gases that collect in the atmosphere, absorbing and re-emitting solar radiation through a process commonly referred to as the greenhouse gas effect. With greater concentrations of GHGs in the atmosphere, heat is trapped and contributes to an increase in global temperatures. Some GHGs occur naturally and collect in the atmosphere through natural processes. Other anthropogenic GHGs are created and emitted through human activities. Generally, when people refer to GHGs in the context of the carbon markets, they are referring to the six GHGs emitted through human activity and covered by the Kyoto Protocol. The six Kyoto GHGs include: carbon dioxide (CO2); methane (CH4); nitrous oxide (N2O); sulfur hexa- fluoride (SF6); hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs); and perfluorocarbons (PFCs). The Kyoto GHGs have varying levels of contribution to global warming. In order to account for the impacts each GHG has on global warming, a commonly used scale has been developed to measure the global warming potential (GWP) of each GHG. GWP uses a relative scale which measures each GHG to that of the same mass of carbon dioxide. Often GHGs will be expressed in terms of their car- bon dioxide equivalent (CO2e), based on that GHG’s GWP (UNFCCC n.d.). For example, 1 tonne of methane emissions, with a GWP of 21, would have a CO2e of 21 tonnes. Equally, 1 tonne of CO2 emissions, with a GWP of 1, would have a CO2e of only 1 tonne. Table 1 presents the global warming potentials of the six Kyoto GHGs. Each of these GHGs is created and emitted in a different manner and through different medi- ums or actions. CO2 enters the atmosphere through the burning of fossil fuels, trees and wood products, solid waste, and as a result of chemical reactions. It is sequestered through part of the Table 1. Greenhouse gas global warming potentials. Greenhouse Gas GWP or CO2e Carbon Dioxide (CO2 1) Methane (CH4 12) Nitrous Oxide (N2 013)O Sulfur hexafluoride (SF6) 23,900 Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) Varies by specific HFC (140 – 11,700) Perfluorocarbons (PFCs) Varies by specific PFC (6,500 – 9,200) Source: IPCC. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2007. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press, 2007.

biological carbon cycle, when it is absorbed by plants. CH4 is generally emitted through the production and transport of coal, oil, and natural gas. Emissions can also be the result of decay or organic waste in landfills or agricultural processes. N2O is produced by both natural and human- related sources. Trace amounts of both CH4 and N2O are released from the combustion of fossil fuels. Soil management, animal manure, sewage treatment, and combustion of some fuels are examples of manmade sources of N2O. HFCs, PFCs, and SF6, known collectively as fluorinated gases, have relatively high GWP and are emitted from a variety of different industrial processes. They are occasionally used as substitutes for ozone-depleting substances (ODS), which the inter- national community has been phasing out for the last few decades. GHG emissions from airports are primarily from combustion sources as presented in Table 2. Note that sources that are directly linked to tenants, i.e. airplane emissions and electricity con- sumed from tenant space, are generally attributed to tenants and not the airport itself. Globally and in the United States, GHG emissions have increased over the past few decades. In the United States alone, GHG emissions increased by 17% between 1990 and 2007 (EPA, Climate Change n.d.). With the large expansion of industrial production to meet the world’s growing population, along with increasing quality of life in many developing countries, GHG emissions are expected to continue to rise in the future. With the recent global focus on the impacts and effects of GHGs, many countries have made focused efforts to improve efficiency and promote clean technologies, as well as to educate the public on the impact their daily choices have on the amount of GHGs being emitted. Introduction and Background 7 Table 2. Airport GHG emission sources. Source GHG Emission(s) Examples Fossil fuel combustion Primarily CO2 Trace volumes of CH4 and N2O Aircraft—idle, takeoff, in flight, landing, auxiliary power units Vehicles—ground support equipment, maintenance, baggage tractors, shuttle buses, private and public vehicles Stationary equipment—generators, heaters, belt movers Other miscellaneous—construction equipment, flares, fires, etc. Refrigerants HFCs Fugitive refrigeration from vehicles and building HVAC systems Waste decomposition CH4 Organic matter decomposition (i.e., food, plant wastes) Wastewater management Electricity consumption Primarily CO2 Trace volumes of CH4 and N2O Purchased electricity from coal, natural gas and/or petroleum products Onsite electric production from coal, natural gas and/or petroleum products Source: Kim, Brian. Guidebook on Preparing Airport Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions Inventories. Palm Springs, CA: UC Symposium on Aviation Noise and Air Quality, 2009.

At the outset, there are a few concepts and terms that should be understood. A carbon credit is a term that is often used to describe, correctly and incorrectly, a wide variety of tradable envi- ronmental instruments (i.e., a representation of some action or inaction that has environmen- tal consequences). For the purposes of this Primer, more specific terms will be used depending on the instrument of reference. Generally, a carbon credit refers to a tradable certificate repre- senting one tonne of CO2e and is classified as either an “allowance” or an “offset.” Figure 1 sum- marizes the specific types of carbon instruments and their applicability in different markets. “Allowances” are usually created as the result of a cap-and-trade system. Under a cap-and-trade system, a mandatory limit on GHG emissions is set by a governing body. Regulated entities within that system must surrender allowances equivalent to the amount that they emit and are permit- ted to find least cost ways to meet the limit. These regulated entities are sometimes referred to as “points of regulation.” Generally, the mandatory limit, referred to as “the cap,” is set by the gov- ernmental body and applies to a certain sector or group of sectors in the economy. Tradable emission allowances are distributed by the government in an amount equal to the total emis- sions permitted by the cap. Generally, the cap, or the number of allowances distributed, declines over time, thus ensuring reductions of total GHG emissions by the covered sectors collectively. Traditionally, airports and other transportation ports have not been targeted as sectors covered under the mandates. However, airports and other end users of fuels and electricity may be indi- 8 The Carbon Market: A Primer for Airports 1.2 Overview of Carbon Markets and Instruments Key Takeaways for Airports • The United States does not have a mandatory cap-and-trade program in place and under most legislative proposals in the past, airports have not been targeted enti- ties that would be required to reduce or account for their GHG emissions. • Other regulated entities, like electricity providers, would be expected to pass the cost of carbon compliance onto consumers downstream, such as airports. • Engaging in activities that reduce, avoid, or sequester emissions may present an opportunity to “earn” carbon offset credits, which are tradable commodities that represent GHG reductions. • Demand for carbon offset credits exists in both the voluntary and mandatory carbon markets. Figure 1. Carbon markets and instruments. Carbon Market Compliance Allowance Offset Credits Voluntary Offset Credits Market types: • compliance – regulatory driven, mandated demand • voluntary – self driven Instrument types: • allowance – compliance instrument under cap & trade • offset credit – created from reduction project, compliance & voluntary instruments

rectly impacted by a cap-and-trade scheme when regulated power and fuel producers pass the costs of GHG regulation on to end users. Allowances can be traded (bought or sold) among other market participants. With a limited number of allowances available in the system to cover the emissions from regulated entities and facilities, allowances become a demanded commodity. If the price of allowances is driven high enough, regulated entities and facilities will find that investing in and implementing new, low emitting technologies and operational practices will be a lower cost alternative to procuring allowances in the marketplace. When the cost of reducing emissions is high and allowance prices are low, the preferred economic option for compliance will be to purchase allowances more and reduce emissions less. Conversely, when the costs of allowance prices are high and the cost of reducing emissions is low, the impetus will be to adjust emitting activities before purchasing costly allowances. An “offset” credit represents a tonne of CO2e; however, unlike an allowance, an offset credit represents a tonne that is avoided, captured, or sequestered from a source that is not required by law to reduce emissions, and can be used to compensate for emissions made elsewhere. Often cap-and-trade system rules permit the regulated entities to procure offset credits and use them toward their compliance requirements as an added flexible means to comply. The number of offset credits used for compliance by an entity or facility is often limited by a total number of offset credits or by a percentage of that entity’s total emissions during a compliance year. Unlike allowances, offset credits can also have monetary value outside of regulatory or compliance cap-and-trade systems as created by non-regulated carbon markets, called the voluntary market. In the voluntary market, there are companies, governments, and individuals that may wish to purchase and retire offset credits in order to “offset” or reduce a particular GHG emitting activ- ity attributed to them. As will be discussed later in the Primer, retiring offset credits—taking them out of circulation—locks in the environmental benefits associated with the GHG offsetting activ- ity to whoever is retiring the offset credit. A common example in the transportation sector is a passenger who pays incrementally to offset the emissions resulting from the air travel in order to claim the trip as “carbon neutral.” While the flight in this example still emits GHGs from the combustion of jet fuel, the passenger can claim carbon neutrality for his or her own journey as the result of a reduction in GHGs made elsewhere. An overview of carbon market instruments is presented in Figure 1. Offset credits are generated from offset projects and include a wide variety of activities and instal- lations that are generally governed by strict protocols. Whether an offset credit originating from one of these projects has any value largely depends on whether there is either a regulatory program or a voluntary offset standard that recognizes that particular project type. Section 2.1, Offset Credit Origination, will provide a description of typically recognized offset project types in the United States and explore opportunities for airports to potentially engage. 1.3 Carbon Projects at Airports Airport sponsors are increasingly taking action to reduce their carbon footprint, motivated by potential future regulations, local requirements, and good environmental stewardship. Numer- ous states have already taken action to address GHG emissions, with some mandating specific reduction targets. Such actions—along with the possibility of federal legislation—are likely to result in downstream costs (increased electricity and fuel costs) for airport sponsors. Early preparation and planning for GHG emission reductions can reduce regulatory risks and provide insight into the fiscal impacts of achieving GHG reductions. Hence, one challenge airport Introduction and Background 9

sponsors face is the identification and prioritization of projects that should be accelerated based on their energy and GHG benefits. To this point, many airport sponsors that have tackled GHG emissions have been rewarded with reduced operating costs through avoided energy consump- tion. Very few airport sponsors have capitalized further by seeking potential revenue streams from facilitating offset projects at airport facilities. There are multiple reasons for this, including the following: • Many of the activities and investments that airports engage in that reduce carbon emissions, such as improving energy efficiency, are not typically the type for which salable offset credits will be created. • Carbon markets in the United States have been slow to develop, and identifying projects that would provide additional revenue can be challenging. • Airport revenues are regulated, and this could potentially limit some opportunities for offset credit monetization. Specifically, airport sponsors are required to use airport revenue only for “the capital and operating costs of the airport, the local airport system, or other local facilities owned or operated by the airport sponsor and which are directly and substantially related to the air transportation of passengers or property.” This is something that would need further interpretation by the FAA on a case-by-case basis. • Airport safety issues and regulations can impact applicability of certain carbon reduction proj- ects at or near airport properties. • Finally, because these markets are new, evolving, and complex, there is a lack of awareness of the market potential by airport sponsors. To date there have been limited examples of airports hosting projects that have been credited with tradable offset credits. However, there are examples of airport projects which could be eli- gible to earn other forms of environmental credits—like renewable energy certificates (RECs) from renewable energy projects and airport emission reduction credits. These instruments will be explained later in the Primer. Table 3 is a review of some past airport projects and the type of environmental instrument likely to be associated with that project. 1.4 Airport Constraints as Related to Carbon Credits and Other Revenue Opportunities 10 The Carbon Market: A Primer for Airports Key Takeaways for Airports • Restrictions on the use of airport revenue, including federal law and grant assur- ances, must be considered when assessing the feasibility of a carbon project. • Land use restrictions at airports have the potential to impact the viability of cer- tain offset projects that may encumber air or land space. This Primer will address a variety of project types that could potentially be implemented at air- ports in order to generate offset credits or other tradable environmental credits. Airports are unique entities with certain constraints on how capital can be spent in order to pursue revenue opportunities. These constraints should be considered at the outset by airports when consider- ing a potential carbon, renewable, or other project type. At the federal level, the use of airport revenue is regulated by federal statutes and policies, including AIP grant assurances. Both federal law and the grant assurances strictly prohibit the use

of airport revenue for non-airport and non-revenue producing projects by all public and private airport sponsors that have received federal assistance. Specifically, airport sponsors are required to use airport revenue only for “the capital and operating costs of the airport, the local airport system, or other local facilities owned or operated by the airport sponsor and which are directly and substantially related to the air transportation of passengers or property.” This discussion of airport constraints is, consistent with the purpose of the Primer, focused on revenue opportunities related to carbon credits. Accordingly, initiatives that are purely cost- additive to airport sponsors—including the purchase of green power, RECs, and offset credits— are not discussed. Such purchases are, however, an area of interest to be explored in ACRP Project 11-01 (Topic 03-05), “Analyses of State and Federal Regulations that May Impede State Initiatives to Reduce an Airport’s Carbon Footprint.” There are reported examples of such pur- chases at Los Angeles (DOE n.d.b), Dallas/Fort Worth (Green Power Partner 2010), and Portland (EPA & DOE 2010) international airports. Introduction and Background 11 Airport Project Type Project Description Project Outcome Applicable Environmental Instrument Portland International Jetport, ME Geothermal HVAC system (120 wells) for new terminal; low- temp/low energy radiant floor. REC production, carbon reductions through renewable energy generation and waste reduction; the system is expected to reduce oil used for the new terminal by 90%—nearly 102,000 gallons a year (Turkel 2010). RECs Albuquerque International Sunport, NM Solar Solar PV project (600 kW system). Solar REC production, savings of over $65,000 per year; eliminated CO2 emissions equivalent to 14,547 gallons of gasoline consumption each year (Whitson n.d.). Solar RECs General Edward Lawrence Logan International Airport, MA Wind 100,000 kW produced annually by 20 small urban turbines; partnered with AeroVironment. REC production, turbines will generate over 100,000 kilowatt hours of annual electricity, reducing carbon emissions by 97,500 pounds (Energy Groom n.d.). RECs Los Angeles International Airport, CA Organic Waste Composting Electricity is generated from methane gas, which is produced from 8,000 tonnes of food waste per year. REC generation, carbon reductions through renewable energy generation and clean waste removal. RECs, possibly offset credits Philadelphia International Airport Electric Ground Service Equipment Electric baggage tractors and electric belt loaders replace their traditionally fueled counterparts. AERC generation, avoids over 500 tons of ozone precursor over the life of the project. AERCs Gerald R. Ford International Airport Gate Power/ PCA Preconditioned air and ground power converter units avoid the use of APUs at the gate. AERC generation, avoids over 100 tons of ozone precursor over the life of the project. AERCs Table 3. Examples of projects at airports and associated environmental market instrument.

1.4.1 Use of Airport Revenue and Revenue Diversion There does not appear to be a likely violation of airport revenue use restrictions resulting from the on-airport installation of alternative energy systems or offset-eligible projects, provided that either (1) those facilities would be used directly by the airport or (2) the airport were compen- sated appropriately for the use of airport land. For example, an airport generating renewable power would likely have to retain any revenue accruing from the sale of excess power or RECs to a utility company or to a third party for its own use. As such, one interpretation could be that a municipal airport sponsor might be violating revenue use restrictions if it were to take the REC revenues “downtown,” i.e., to use them for municipal purposes not related to airport operations without fair market value compensation to the airport. An analogous activity is that of revenue generated from mineral extraction as set forth in the 1999 Policy and Procedures Concerning the Use of Airport Revenue (FAA 2009). In a power-purchase agreement (PPA)—a contract between an entity that generates power and an entity that purchases and consumes electricity where a third party owns and operates an alternative energy or offset-eligible project on airport property—the airport would need to be compensated for the fair market value of the property. In some circumstances, where a PPA project is conducted on property purchased with AIP noise grants, the FAA may demand repayment of the grants. The FAA is starting to look at the release of this land for non-aviation use. 1.4.2 Airport Layout Plan and Compatible Land Use Before an airport sponsor can “sell, lease, encumber, or otherwise transfer or dispose of any part of its title or other interests” in the airport, the FAA needs to approve the action, as part of its grant assurances. Airport sponsors should coordinate with their Airport District Office before entering into long-term leases for renewable energy and offset-eligible projects that result in either a release of airport land or a change in the airport’s land use. The FAA must approve all land uses on airport property. Should the land uses interfere with the safety and efficiency of the airport operation or other critical evaluation factors, they may not be approved. Wind farms and solar farms alike could have safety implications at the airport. While solar farms are an increas- ingly common site at airports, wind farms are not typically observed due to a number of factors, such as their size and potential interference with radar technology. Over 15 airports around the country are operating solar facilities and airport interest in solar energy is growing rapidly. The FAA has published “Technical Guidance for Evaluating Selected Solar Technologies on Airports” (FAA 2010b). This guidance, published in October 2010, provides a checklist of FAA procedures to ensure that proposed photovoltaic or solar thermal hot water systems are safe and pose no risk to pilots, air traffic controllers or airport opera- tions. This checklist should be reviewed in detail, as a starting point for all airport sponsors considering solar at their airport. Case studies of operating airport solar facilities are provided within the guidance document, including Denver International Airport, Fresno Yosemite In- ternational Airport, and Albuquerque International Sunport. The feasibility of solar projects, as well as other renewable energy projects on airport grounds, will be discussed in later sections of the Primer. Land use in the vicinity of the airport is also governed by the grant assurances, which specify that it must be compatible to the extent reasonable so as to minimize interference with airport operations. However, airport operators do not directly control the use of off-airport land. This restriction would limit the ability of the airport sponsor to “partner” with an adjacent landowner to implement an offset-eligible project if that offset-eligible project is not compatible with the airport operation. 12 The Carbon Market: A Primer for Airports

1.4.3 Use Agreements and Bond Resolutions Airport-airline use and lease agreements provide the basis for the financial relationship between airports and airline tenants. Depending on the business relationship and associated provisions, airlines may retain the right to approve capital expenditures via Majority-in-Interest (MII) purview and in some cases operating budgets. Capital expenditures such as renewable energy projects and offset-eligible projects are unlikely to be excluded from airline MII purview; there- fore the airport may be obligated to seek airline permission to undertake them. In the absence of an airline use and lease agreement, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Policy Regarding the Establishment of Airport Rates and Charges establishes the guidelines that airports must fol- low in determining which costs can be included in the airline rate base if a rate methodology is unilaterally employed by an airport. Smaller commercial service airports and general aviation airports may not necessarily have use agreements with their tenants or rate resolutions that prescribe annual cost-related adjust- ments of rates and therefore may have less opportunity to recover capital or operating expendi- tures associated with renewable energy projects or offset-eligible projects from their tenants. As a result, these airports are more dependent on grant participation or are more likely to need a faster return on investment for these projects than larger commercial service airports, which could affect the structure of the transaction. For example, smaller airports may not have ready access to debt for these projects and may need to solicit private investment and associated sharing of risks and rewards. Airports that issue general airport revenue bonds are subject to bond resolutions that describe the nature of the debt obligation, the security for the obligations, and the airport’s duties to the bondholders, among other things. They commit the airport to generating annual revenues in excess of operating expenses and debt service to provide a cushion for bondholders (usually equal to 25%, referred to as the “rate covenant”). Before airports can issue more debt, they must meet the conditions required under the additional bonds test, which can be more onerous than the rate covenant. Bond resolutions also typically have restrictions on the sale or long-term lease of airport property. An airport’s ability to add operating costs and debt are also limited by risk and market thresholds for leveraging future revenues. Responsibility for debt repayment, increases in operating expenses, and associated impacts on tenant rates and charges are typically matters of negotiation between airports and tenants (although some airports do not have airline use and lease agreements and only need to consult with air- lines regarding annual rates). Airport sponsors should review their legal documents to determine their requirements. Depending on the form of the agreement for the project, the associated cost may be defined as an operating expense or a capital expenditure. If it is an operating expense, tenants are less likely to have the right to veto the project. It is unlikely that bond resolutions or airport agreements would list and define these types of expenditures explicitly. Introduction and Background 13

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TRB’s Airport Cooperative Research Program (ACRP) Report 57: The Carbon Market: A Primer for Airports provides information on carbon and other environmental credit trading markets, and highlights the potential opportunities and challenges to an airport's participation in these markets.

The primer also addresses the new terms and concepts related to the carbon and other environmental markets.

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