Vermont F-35 foes sue to block deployment
MONTPELIER — Opponents of plans to base F-35 fighter planes at Burlington International Airport have filed a lawsuit alleging that the U.S. Air Force violated federal law.
The lawsuit filed Monday asked a federal judge to overturn the Air Force decision to base the planes in South Burlington, arguing that they will be too loud and lower property values around the airport. Opponents also raised the remote possibility that one of the planes could crash.
Opponents worry that loud planes could cause health issues and would make more neighborhoods around the airport “incompatible with residential use.”
The lawsuit was announced Wednesday. Air Force and Vermont National Guard officials say they are unable to comment about it.
Bristol-based lawyer James Dumont, who represents the opponents, said the environmental impact statement written as part of the Air Force’s decision-making process failed to offer comprehensive information about the effects of the planes.
“The document is a sham,” Dumont said.
The lawsuit claims that Air Force officials examined only physical damage that noise might cause to historic buildings, not usage changes or possible demolitions, and did not consult the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation as required by the National Historical Preservation Act.
According to Dumont, the report also should have included an analysis of noise levels and other impacts if there were no fighter planes at all. The Air Force is planning to get rid of Burlington’s F-16s regardless of whether the F-35s arrive.
The complaint also states that the U.S. Air Force mitigation plan issued in April is being implemented without a full public comment period.
As such, the complaint states that Air Force officials “failed to conduct the requisite ‘hard look’ required by the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969.”
The head of a nonprofit economic development group that supports the arrival of the new planes said the lawsuit doesn’t raise any new issues. “Everything has been already addressed,” said Frank Cioffi, president of Greater Burlington Industrial Corp.
Cioffi said he’s confident the legal actions by the opponents won’t keep the planes from their scheduled arrival in 2020.
The placement of the F-35 planes will secure 1,100 National Guard jobs for the 40-year lifespan of the machinery, said Cioffi.
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