An environmental court judge has denied a request that Burlington obtain a land-use permit to host a fleet of F-35 fighter jets, a decision F-35 opponents are likely to appeal.
The proposed changes at the Vermont Air National Guard base that would be made to accommodate the jets do not warrant an Act 250 permit, Judge Thomas Walsh said in his decision.
F-35 opponents say they will likely appeal the lower court's ruling to the Vermont Supreme Court because the Air Force estimated noise levels around the airport will increase with the new jets. Opponents are also concerned about public safety. They worry that the pilots will not have sufficient flight experience with the new jets to ensure there will not be an accident.
"If you can wait until you've got the crash risk down low and you can come up with a way and show that the noise level is lower than the F-16, then bring it here," said James Leas, an appellate in the case and opponent of the F-35.
The U.S. Air Force last year selected the Vermont Guard base as one of the locations for 18 F-35 fighter jets. The new planes will replace Vermont's F-16 fleet, beginning in 2020. F-35 opponents in December 2012 requested that Burlington, which owns the airport, obtain an Act 250 permit in order to require the Air Force to mitigate the noise impacts of the new jet.