Court Rules Against Challenge to Environmental Report on Long Beach Airport Plan

FEBRUARY 15, 2008

An Orange County judge ruled Friday that the City of Long Beach did not violate state law when it approved an environmental report for an expansion of the Long Beach Airport terminal. The Long Beach Unified School District had filed a lawsuit against the city, saying the report didn't take into account the impact that potential airport noise would have on area schools.

Superior Court Judge Thierry Patrick Colaw had issued a tentative ruling on Monday in favor of the city, but didn't make a final ruling until after a two-hour hearing Wednesday morning.

The case took place in Orange County to be heard on a more neutral ground. The school district, along with the Long Beach PTA, claimed in its lawsuit that the number of flights at the airport may be increased with the expansion, adding to noise and air pollution, and that the city should redo the environmental study. However, the city said the terminal expansion is only a modernization designed to accommodate a growing number of passengers at the antiquated airport. The project won't increase the number of flights, and such an increase isn't even allowed because of noise limits set by the Federal Aviation Administration, city attorneys say.

Under a 1995 federal court settlement that followed years of battles between residents, airlines and the city, the airport is limited to 41 commercial flights and 25 commuter flights per day. The cap was set using the estimated amount of noise that likely would be generated by commercial jets of that day.

The city now plans to expand the terminal from 56,320 square feet to 89,995 square feet and build a new parking garage.

In his tentative ruling Colaw had said the city's certification in June 2006 of the environmental report wasn't a violation of the California Environmental Quality Act, as had been claimed in the district's lawsuit filed in 2006. JetBlue Airways, the primary commercial airline that flies out of the airport, also is named as a defendant in the lawsuit.