Court rejects airport challenge on flight paths
In what may serve as an anticlimatic end to a multi-year dispute between the Denver metro governments and the Federal Aviation Administration, a federal court has dismissed Centennial Airport’s challenge to the FAA’s approval of a plan Denver Subway Air Traffic Rerouting.
“I frankly think the court kicked on this – didn’t want to hit that with a 10-foot pole,” airport manager Robert Olislagers said at a June 17 board meeting. of the airport.
The FAA’s plan to optimize arrivals and departures at local airports is called Project Denver Metroplex and includes Denver International Airport, Centennial Airport, and a few others.
An FAA environmental assessment study examined the impacts the project could have on noise, air quality, wildlife, and historical and cultural resources.
He said the proposed change in flight paths is not expected to have “any significant impact” on those aspects of the project area, including the Denver metro and the Greeley area.
The FAA issued one official final word – a “No Significant Impact Finding” and a “Decision Record” – which allowed the agency to move forward with Project Metroplex. The decision was announced in January 2020.
The discovery means the FAA determined that an additional review, called an environmental impact statement, was not necessary before the plan was implemented, according to the FAA website.
Despite the legal challenge, the project went into effect as planned on March 26, 2020, nearly four years after the plan was implemented by the FAA, according to Centennial Airport. Local officials in the southern Denver metro area and beyond were hoping to pump the brakes, fearing increased noise and some pilots flying over what Centennial Airport claimed was dangerous territory.
the centenary airport; the councils of the commissioners of the counties of Arapahoe, Douglas and Gilpin; and the city of Greenwood Village filed a lawsuit in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in March 2020, days before the plan’s implementation date. It was the latest outcry in years of complaints that local authorities had raised about the plan.
While the plan had a direct impact on only a handful of airports, potential effects could be felt in an area that includes all or part of Colorado’s 31 counties, although the FAA analysis indicated that only a few dozen people would experience a noticeable increase in noise, located in unincorporated Jefferson County and unincorporated Elbert County.
‘Stand up’ a sticking point
The court’s dismissal of local authorities’ challenge to the FAA plan was largely based on legal details rather than whether the plan would adversely affect the South Denver Metro and others. regions.
In its ruling – dated June 8 of this year – the court wrote that local governments had failed to demonstrate “standing” or the right to file a legal challenge given the circumstances of the case.
The dismissal “is very disappointing as they did not comment on the merits” of the arguments, Olislagers said.
Arguments raised against the FAA plan, according to the court ruling, included the following:
• The FAA did not sufficiently consider various aspects of the impact of the Denver Metroplex plan on the surrounding area.
• The agency did not “encourage or truly enable community participation in the Metroplex design process”.
• Gilpin County claims the agency failed to meet its obligations under the National Historic Preservation Act.
The FAA’s NextGen Project – an effort to increase the safety and efficiency of air travel across the country – began in 2007 and is expected to be largely in place by 2025. The Denver Metroplex plan is among the FAA efforts to comply with the NextGen process. In the court case, local officials argued that Congress, by forcing the FAA to conduct certain studies related to NextGen, meant the agency was suspending all further action on NextGen projects until such studies were completed. completed.
The court sharply criticized the way local authorities presented their challenge, sometimes citing a lack of evidence provided.
“Even if the city and counties theory that they defend their citizens were without infirmity, it would still lack any support,” the court wrote. “For example, (the bodies) offer no evidence demonstrating how” Metroplex will directly affect the efforts of Arapahoe and Douglas counties to reduce and mitigate noise and other aircraft impacts. “
The lawsuit was also filed in part by Mountain Aviation Inc., a charter and owner operated aircraft services company headquartered at the Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport in the Broomfield area.
The challenge argued that “safety concerns regarding the new arrival and departure procedures are detrimental to operators such as Mountain Aviation,” according to the decision.
But, he continued, “Mountain Aviation has not substantiated these fleeting claims” that he was injured or suffered a negative impact.
The ruling also said the challenge “makes no argument, much less produces or indicates no evidence, that Gilpin County has standing to present its three NHPA claims.”
Maybe at the end of the line for complaints
At the June 17 Centennial Airport board meeting, comments from officials indicated that they were unlikely to challenge the FAA plan further in court, although it was not not clear whether the appeal of the decision is totally excluded.
The now dismissed action was a petition for review with the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, filed in March 2020 by the Arapahoe County Public Airport Authority – the government body that oversees the airport – and Greenwood Village, Gilpin County and Montagne Aviation Inc.
Arapahoe and Douglas counties filed a separate motion for review in March 2020, and the two motions were consolidated into one case.
Initially, Centennial Airport had filed a petition for review in June 2019, but subsequently withdrew its case because the filing was premature, and the court formally dismissed the case in August 2019. The new petition did not differ on the side of the airport, depending on the airport.