Thursday August 18, 2016
US District Judge Geoffrey Crawford issued his decision in favor of the Air Force in the F35 lawsuit last week.
Six Chittenden County citizens and the Stop F-35 Coalition, along with the City of Winooski, brought the lawsuit against the U.S. Air Force, challenging the results of an Environmental Impact Study (EIS) that paved the way for the Vermont Air National Guard basing of the F35’s at the Burlington International Airport. The lawsuit was supported by the City of South Burlington as amicus curaie—or friend of the court.
At question was whether the study adhered to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) standards.
Judge Crawford wrote in his August 10 decision that the study did, in fact, meet the requirements of NEPA. He wrote, “When it is read in conjunction with the supporting documentation, it is clear that Defendant took a “hard look” at the environmental consequences of the basing decision, including the specific areas about which Plaintiffs complain.” Crawford went on to say, “Finally, the court is satisfied the decision to locate the F35 at VANG meets the requirements that the agency not be arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law. The EIS documents the adverse environmental changes that basing the F35 aircraft at VANG will bring to the surrounding community. These changes received thoughtful and detailed consideration. The agency’s decision to locate the aircraft at VANG reflects trade-offs between Defendant’s mission-driven needs and the interests of the community in limiting noise and other environmental impacts that are frequently present in major federal projects. The decision itself cannot reasonably be said to be arbitrary or otherwise in violation of the requirements of the APA and NEPA. ”
Rosanne Greco, spokesperson for the Stop the F-35 Coalition said, “I am disappointed in the ruling, but it’s not over. All of the citizens who are named plaintiffs, along with the Coalition have decided to appeal.”
South Burlington City Council Chair Helen Riehle said, “I am disappointed but not surprised with the ruling by Judge Crawford. We knew that taking on the Air Force would be formidable. However, our concerns regarding health, safety and noise were well articulated and remain important to the citizens of our city.”
Major General Steven Cray, adjutant general of Vermont said, “We know Vermonters are very proud of their Vermont Air National Guard and today’s decision is a clear message that the Air Force did its due diligence when making the F35 basing decision.We are very happy to put the lawsuit behind us and to focus on the future of the Vermont Air Guard. As community partners it’s important that we continue to work side by side with our airport neighbors.”