Thursday, January 01, 2015

Yardley-Lower Makefield: Lawsuit over Trenton Mercer Airport (KTTN) issues expected to ‘heat up’ in 2015

YARDLEY BOROUGH:  Expect to hear a lot more about airplane noise in 2015 as a legal battle between two sides of the Delaware River heats up.

A lawyer representing Bucks Residents for Responsible Airport Management (BRRAM) said once final briefs are submitted, he expects its lawsuit against the Federal Aviation Administration, the Mercer County Board of Chosen Freeholders and Frontier Airlines will start moving forward.

BRRAM, along with several Pennsylvania and New Jersey residents, filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Trenton last April accusing the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Frontier Airlines and the Mercer County Board of Chosen Freeholders of allowing Frontier Airlines to expand its commercial operations out of Trenton-Mercer Airport without performing a federally-mandated environmental impact analysis.

BRRAM and its plaintiffs say they are not seeking to close the airport but that the court compel the FAA and the county to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act and start an EIS (Environmental Impact Statement) review process with emphasis on noise impacts and possible mitigation measures.

In response to the suit, Frontier Airlines filed a motion to dismiss. That motion is pending, according to BRRAM attorney Bill Potter.

Since filing the lawsuit, BRRAM has received the support of Lower Makefield Township, Upper Makefield Township and Yardley Borough, all of whom have signed on as co-plaintiffs in the case.

And during the coming weeks, Potter said BRRAM members will be lobbying lawmakers at the state and national levels urging them to join the fight.

BRRAM leader Holly Bussey said they will specifically be asking Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick “to open an investigation and to hold hearings into what has come to light in this case, namely, the unwritten policy of the FAA to ignore literally all environmental and safety issues associated with an airliner expanding exponentially the use of an airport after initially receiving FAA approval for only a very limited number of flights.

“It is this topic that BRRAM will be preparing a review for Congressman Fitzpatrick and requesting his involvement,” she said.

“I don’t think we are out of sync with what the FAA requirements,” said Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes last April “We have not increased the square footage of the terminal nor have we increased the length of the runways, so there is really no reason for us to do an EIS, which could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

According to Hughes, the current runways are long enough to allow the A319 jets, operated by the low cost carrier, to fly into and out of the airport.

Mercer County Freeholder Lucy Walters also said in April that while she is sympathetic about the noise pollution concerns, she agrees with the county that conducting an EIS is a bit pre-mature.

“We first need to make sure that we have a partner that will stick around before we invest so much money to make the terminal bigger or increase the size of the runway which would trigger an EIS,” she said.

BRRAM members, mostly from the Yardley-Makefield side of the river, continue to voice objections to noise generated by air traffic to and from the Trenton-Mercer Airport, saying they are awakened by planes late at night and in the early morning hours. At least one family said they are considering moving because of the noise.

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