Vermont F-35 foes file suit to block deployment


MONTPELIER -- Opponents of plans to base F-35 fighter planes at Vermont's 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. They 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 on Wednesday. Air Force and Vermont National Guard officials say they are unable to comment about the lawsuit.

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 charges that Air Force officials only examined physical damage that noise might cause to historic buildings, not usage changes or possible demolitions and did not consult with 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 new F-35s arrive.

The complaint also states that the Vermont National Guard 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."

"They haven't raised anything new. Everything has been already addressed, said Frank Cioffi, president of Greater Burlington Industrial Corporation, a nonprofit economic development group that supports the arrival of the new planes.

Cioffi said that he's confident the legal actions by the opponents wouldn't keep the planes from their scheduled arrival of 2020. The placement of the F-35 planes will secure 1,100 National Guard jobs for the 40-year lifespan of the machinery, he said.

Opponents insist there are still issues to be resolved with a process they don't believe was transparent.

"The questions absolutely have not been answered. That's what the lawsuit is for," said Rosanne Greco, a retired U.S. Air Force colonel and member of the Stop the F-35 Coalition.


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