MONTPELIER — Opponents of a plan to bring the F-35 fighter plane to the Burlington International Airport say they will continue to use public pressure as well as legal action as part of their ongoing effort to prevent the plane from being based in Vermont.
“The main thing is the campaign to stop the F-35 is continuing,” said South Burlington attorney James Marc Leas, a member of the Stop the F-35 Coalition, which fought against the selection of Burlington as the first National Guard base to host the plane.
The F-35 is designed to replace the aging F-16s the Vermont Air National Guard now flies.
In addition to public opinion, Leas said they would use both state and federal courts as part of their efforts to block the aircraft’s deployment, in addition to seeking to bring public opinion to their side.
The comments come a day after the Air Force announced it had chosen Burlington, the first Air National Guard base to be chosen to host the F-35, the U.S. military’s next generation aircraft. The planes aren’t scheduled to arrive in Vermont until 2020.
Opponents claim the F-35, known to be noisier than the F-16s they are replacing, will be disruptive to the neighborhoods around the airport. They also claim the new, untested plane poses a greater safety risk while being flown from the airport located amid the most heavily populated area of Vermont.
National Guard officials say they will work to minimize the noise of the planes and that by the time the first aircraft reach Vermont they will have been fully tested.
Other groups praised the decision by the Air Force, which came several weeks after the release of an environmental impact study, which was revised to use updated census data of areas around the airport.
“This has been a long and thorough process for the basing of the F-35 in Vermont,” said Frank Cioffi, the president of the Greater Burlington Industrial Corporation, which has pushed for the F-35. “The Air Force took the prudent approach and restudied the basing decision based on updated census data. The overall criteria confirmed what we believed to be true: that the Vermont Air National Guard is the right choice for the basing of the F-35”.
Leas said the opponents are arguing in state courts that the National Guard would need a state land-use permit before the planes could be brought to Vermont and they are planning to file a federal lawsuit in the coming weeks.
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