East Hampton's Petition to U.S. Supreme Court in Airport Noise Case
Sparks Interest at the Court

APRIL 26, 2017

On April 19 the U.S. Supreme Court responded to the Town of East Hampton's petition for a writ of certiorari by requesting further briefing on issues raised in the petition. The petition was filed on March 6 after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit issued a preliminary injunction against enforcement of anti-noise restrictions at the town's airport.

A Second Circuit Court panel in Manhattan had unanimously ruled on Nov. 4, 2016, that it was not likely that the town, the easternmost community in New York's Long Island, would be able to prevail over a challenge to three ordinances designed to limit noisy aircraft operations at its airport because the ordinances appeared to violate the federal Airport Noise and Capacity Act (ANCA) of 1990. (See Appeals Court Blocks East Hampton Airport from Limiting Noisy Flights.) The FAA's regulations implementing the Act (contained in Federal Aviation Regulations Part 161) are broadly considered by critics to have made it nearly impossible for cities and counties that own airports to restrict noisy aircraft operating at their airports.

In April 2015 the town board of East Hampton had restricted what it considered noisy aircraft to one takeoff and landing per week from May to September. It also imposed a curfew on all flights from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m., and an even stricter curfew, from 8 p.m. to 9 a.m., on noisy flights. The town's action was challenged in federal court by "Friends of the East Hampton Airport" and several air passenger service companies that use the airport. In June 2015 U.S. District Judge Joanna Seybert blocked enforcement of limits on the number of flights while allowing the nighttime curfews (see "Court Upholds Curfew for Noisy Aircraft in East Hampton").

The town's petition to the Supreme Court raised the following questions:

"The Airport Noise and Capacity Act of 1990 ('ANCA') sets forth certain conditions for the imposition of airport access restrictions, and states that the remedy for non-compliance is the ineligibility for federal funds and the inability to impose passenger facility charges. The questions presented are:

"1. Does equity jurisdiction allow a private plaintiff to obtain an injunction for non-compliance with ANCA against an airport that does not receive federal funds or impose passenger facility charges?

"2. Does ANCA preempt noise and access restrictions by all airports, including the many thousands of small airports nationwide that do not receive federal funds or impose passenger facility charges?"

Sources: Various on-line reports and court records.

Case documents: