Parking rates will rise by $1 at Bob Hope Airport next year as officials beef up for what is expected to be a long and costly legal battle with Lockheed Martin over who should pay for cleaning polluted groundwater beneath the airfield.
In pitching the fee increase to the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority on Monday, executive director Dan Feger criticized Lockheed Martin Corp. and the Environmental Protection Agency for trying peg some of the cleanup to the airport, arguing the underground contamination was left behind by decades of military aircraft manufacturing.
In addition to a lawsuit against Lockheed over the cleanup costs, Feger said he is asking California senators in Washington, D.C., to change the law that places the airport on the hook for part of an estimated $108-million tab.
To prevent polluters from escaping liability, the federal law allows the government to cast a wide net in holding property owners responsible for cleanup costs.
“This is a most regrettable situation, and we think it’s totally unfair of the EPA to put the airport, the airlines and the traveling public in this position,” Feger said before the authority unanimously approved the increase.
Beginning Feb. 1, short-term daily parking rates will be $31 a day, long-term rates will be $10 to $12 a day, and the valet rate will be $21 a day.
The change will push the short-term rate at Bob Hope Airport slightly higher than at Los Angeles International Airport, which is the most expensive in the region, according to the airport authority.
Bob Hope Airport’s long-term rate will still be lower than LAX, and the valet rate will remain as the lowest among regional airports.
Feger said his agency would also launch a campaign to explain to travelers why they are shouldering costs for contamination the airport did not cause.
The rate increase is expected to generate between $1.4 million and $1.6 million a year. The airport last raised parking rates in 2006.
In July, the EPA informed the airport that it was considered a “potentially responsible party” for cleanup of the contamination — including chromium, dioxane and volatile organic compounds — that occurred during the decades when Lockheed used the area for manufacturing military aircraft.
The EPA action triggered a lawsuit between the airport and Lockheed over who should assume liability.
Airport officials claim that in 1978 Lockheed agreed to indemnify the airport for any clean-up costs related to former uses of the site.
“Lockheed caused it. Lockheed should clean it up,” Feger said.
Lockheed Martin spokeswoman Gail Rymer said in an e-mail that the company has offered to negotiate with the airport over cleanup costs and has long taken responsibility for its former operations in the San Fernando Valley.
But Rymer said some contamination came from other sources.
“A portion of these groundwater impacts are associated with a facility on the airport property that contained fire pits not created or operated by Lockheed Martin,” Rymer said. “As such, the airport authority should take responsibility, or pursue other potentially responsible parties.”