Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Pennsylvania group sues Mercer freeholders, Frontier Airlines and Federal Aviation Administration over Trenton-Mercer Airport (KTTN) use

EWING — A Bucks County organization is taking the Mercer County Freeholder Board, Frontier Airlines and the Federal Aviation Administration to court in an effort to compel the county to perform an environmental study on the Trenton-Mercer Airport operations.

Bucks Residents for Responsible Airport Management (BRRAM) has butted heads with the Mercer County government repeatedly in recent years over quality of life concerns related to the use of the Ewing airport. With the arrival of Frontier Airlines 18 months ago and its subsequent dramatic increase in passenger flights in and out of the airport, BRRAM has resumed its activism. On Monday it took legal action by filing a lawsuit in federal court.

BRRAM claims that the county is acting outside of the law by refusing to perform an environmental impact study. The study, which BRRAM claims the county should be required to perform under the National Environmental Protection Act, would look at how the airport affects surrounding communities and would be open for public comment.

“With increasing flights, you’re going to have increasing traffic at increasing hours of the day, and you’re going to impact quality of life,” said Holly Bussey, a spokeswoman for the organization. By June Frontier will have 73 weekly flights out of the airport to 17 different destinations.

The organization’s main concern is the impact of noise on the communities that sit underneath Frontier’s flight paths, she said. Some residents of surrounding communities find the noise created when planes fly over their homes to be a great nuisance, but the larger concern is that the continued expansion of flights from Trenton-Mercer will eventually threaten property values, Bussey said.

BRRAM did not want to resort to a lawsuit, but the county and the FAA have not been receptive to its concerns, Bussey said.

“We have made inquiries to the FAA and they have responded with no commitment or not at all,” Bussey said.

The county has not been any more cooperative, she said.

BRRAM is joined in the lawsuit by a number of individual residents of the towns surrounding the airport in both Bucks and Mercer counties, according to court documents. They have also won the support of the Yardley Borough Council and are working with Lower Makefield Township, Bussey said.

Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes has held firm to the position that the introduction of Frontier to the airport and the company’s growing list of destinations does not warrant an environmental impact study.

“We feel we’ve done everything to comply with the FAA regulations, including the environmental regulations,” Hughes said.

Hughes said he does not believe that the county is required to perform an impact study unless they expand the runway or the terminal at the airport. While the county invested in the renovation of both last year, it did not expand either, he said.

If compelled to by the FAA or the federal court in Trenton, the county would perform the study, but Hughes said that the airport would remain open during the process.

While Hughes understands that BRRAM has concerns over the increased flights from the airport, he said that situation has improved since previous commercial airlines used the space. The planes that Frontier flies are quieter than the ones past carriers brought in, he said.

“We don’t think we’re adding significantly to the pollution standards or the volume,” Hughes said.

A Frontier spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment.

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