Lawsuit Challenges Environmental Analysis of Expansion Plan for Los Angeles International

JULY 21, 2005

Lawyers for Los Angeles County have filed a lawsuit challenging the Federal Aviation Administration's approval of the city's $11-billion modernization plan for Los Angeles International Airport. The bare-bones legal filing made with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last week states the project's final Environmental Impact Statement on the proposal contains "inadequate analysis and unsupported findings" on noise, air quality, and other issues.

The FAA issued its 58-page Record of Decision approving the plan in May. Opponents of the project had 60 days to file a court challenge. The cities of Inglewood and Culver City are co-plaintiffs in the case.

The court filing does not flesh out the basis for the complaints against the FAA's action. Plaintiff lawyers will be able to file briefs supporting their complaint later this year and federal government lawyers will then be allowed to answer the allegations.

David Sommers, a spokesman for county Supervisor Don Knabe, said county officials had concerns that the federal Environmental Impact Statement "didn't go far enough to address noise abatement and traffic concerns."

Knabe and the rest of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors have long opposed the modernization proposal pushed by former Mayor James Hahn. The man who defeated Hahn, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, has said he opposes major components of Hahn's plan and favors having other airports in the region absorb air traffic growth.

Since he took office, Villaraigosa has expressed interest in settling a number of state court lawsuits challenging Hahn's plan. The mayor wants to eliminate the more controversial aspects of the plan, including a new passenger check-in center east of the airport.

Sommers said while Knabe and other county officials are pleased with Villaraigosa's concerns, a lawsuit-filing deadline on the FAA decision meant the county needed to take its case to court or risk losing its opportunity to challenge the findings. "We had to speak now or forever hold our peace," Sommers said.

FAA spokesman Donn Walker said his office does not comment about lawsuits but added: "We are very confident that our final Environmental Impact Statement for LAX is fully compliant with all federal laws."

Source: Copley News Service