Thursday, July 3, 2014

F-35 Opponents File Lawsuit To Block Jet From Burlington International Airport (KBTV), Vermont

Opponents of the plan by the Air Force to base F-35 fighter planes at Vermont's Burlington International Airport have filed a lawsuit asking a federal district court to overturn the decision.

A lawsuit filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Burlington challenges the decision by the Secretary of the Air Force to base up to 18 of the stealth F-35 fighter jets at the Vermont Air National Guard base at Burlington International Airport.

The F-35 opponents announced Wednesday that the lawsuit had been filed. Bristol Attorney James Dumont represents the seven individuals and the Stop the F-35 Coalition who filed the complaint.  “This is a lawsuit that challenges the adequacy of the Environmental Impact Statement that the Air Force conducted. The governing regulations require that certain minimum standards be met. Those standards were not met in the EIS and that’s why the lawsuit was filed.”

The plaintiffs claim the decision to base the jets in Burlington failed to adequately address mitigation, address conflicts with state and local laws and address socioeconomic impacts. The suit also claims the Air Force failed to identify and evaluate harm to historic properties, consider a no-action alternative, consider catastrophic impacts of exposure to toxic particulates and fumes, and provide public notice of the adoption of the mitigation report.  The suit claims that all are required by National Environmental Policy Act. It also claims siting the F-35 in Burlington violates the National Historic Preservation Act.  Attorney Dumont says every count is critical and believes the Air Force must abandon the jet.  “The Department of Defense is never going to say sorry we made a mistake, we’re abandoning the program.  But the incredible cost, unbelievable cost, of the F-35 and its incredible unreliability, the writing’s on the wall. They can’t go forward. They’re going to have to phase it out. Whether Burlington is on the list that has a few of the jets, or isn’t, is what this lawsuit is really going to determine in my opinion.”

Greater Burlington Industrial Corporation president Frank Cioffi supports the Air Force decision to bring the F-35's to Burlington.  “There’s nothing new in their allegations here. They’re just taking another legal avenue to try to stall and delay the process and tie the process up in the legal system. What they’re attempting to do, their lawyer’s attempting to do, is delay the process. The basing is several years away anyway. So I would think that the legal challenge here will play itself out in the courts prior to any of the final physical basing of the aircraft. The issues they’ve raised have been totally addressed by the Air Force and by the Vermont Air National Guard all the way through the process.” 

Cioffi notes that NEPA — the National Environmental Policy Act — that the lawsuit is based on is part of the federal permitting process, so the lawsuit is the proper avenue for opponents to mount their expected challenge.  “The opponents also challenged the project in Vermont’s environmental courts. First they tried to get the project to fall under our state’s land use law called Act 250.  They challenged at the administrative level. They lost there. They challenged at the Environmental Court level in Vermont. They lost there. And now they’re appealing to the Vermont Supreme Court and we’re confident that they’re going to lose there. So all they’re attempting to do is to use every opportunity in the legal process to stall, delay and drag the project out. The Air Force has nothing to hide. The Vermont Air Guard has nothing to hide. We’re very confident that we’ll  prevail.”

The government has 60 days to respond to the lawsuit.

Calls to the Vermont National Guard were not returned in time for broadcast.

Story, audio and photo:  http://wamc.org


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