AIRPORT REDESIGN PLAN CHALLENGERS SEEKING MONEY FOR LEGAL FIGHT
WILMINGTON, Del. - State lawmakers supporting a court challenge to the Federal Aviation Administration's planned airspace redesign for the Philadelphia airport are appealing for citizens to donate money for the legal fight.
A group of individuals and civic associations representing communities in northern New Castle County filed a petition last week with the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia, asking for judicial review of the FAA's redesign plan.
With little prospect of receiving state funding and having been turned away by county officials, the petitioners are asking area residents to help pay the legal bills that will be incurred.
"Now is the time to put your money where your mouth is," said state Rep. Robert Valihura Jr., R-Wilmington.
Opponents of the airspace redesign plan fear it will exacerbate existing problems with noise from flights arriving and departing from Philadelphia International Airport.
A more immediate concern involves a similar 3rd Circuit petition for review filed by Delaware County, Pa.
"We're protecting our interests," Valihura said. "Delaware County clearly has a different view of the world than New Castle County." Any changes made to the proposed redesign at Delaware County's behest likely would negatively affect residents of northern New Castle County, Valihura explained.
"We have every reason to believe that if that plan was changed, Delaware would be to the detriment; we would see an increase in flights and planes over our community," he said. "There's really no other place they can go, other than over Delaware."
Michael Kelly, an attorney representing the petitioners in the state of Delaware, said the proposed redesign has some beneficial aspects for those residents, but doesn't go far enough in addressing their concerns.
"The altitudes they have over northern New Castle County are too low," Kelly said, adding that the routing plan needs to be changed to send more planes over the Delaware River.
Kelly also questioned whether the FAA followed the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act during the redesign process.
FAA spokesman Jim Peters declined to comment on Delaware's petition, the 10th filed in advance of Monday's deadline for legal challenges to the airspace redesign plan for the New York-New Jersey-Philadelphia metropolitan area.
Peters said officials are moving ahead with the plan, and that the FAA hopes to begin using additional departure headings next month at Philadelphia, Newark Liberty in New Jersey and John F. Kennedy International in New York in an effort to ease congestion and reduce departure delays.
Meanwhile, Valihura, state Rep. Greg Lavelle, and state Sen. Catherine Cloutier, who is among the petitioners in Delaware's filing with the 3rd Circuit, called on Gov. Ruth Ann Minner to reconvene an action group of government officials and community activists that coordinated Delaware's response to the airspace redesign proposal and plans to expand the Philadelphia airport with another runaway that lead to more planes flying over Delaware.
"Right now, the noise and pollution created in the increased air traffic has created an intolerable situation," Cloutier said.
Lawmakers said that if Minner does not reconvene the action group, they will sponsor a resolution in January to do so.
A spokeswoman for Minner did not immediately return a telephone message.
Source - Philadelphia Inquirer