East Hampton Town today filed a petition asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn an appeals court decision over the town’s proposed airport noise regulations “that would rob East Hampton and thousands of other local airport sponsors of their ability to manage their airport, in the best interests of their residents,” according to the town’s announcement this afternoon.
The town had attempted in 2015 to enact several pieces of legislation limiting the use of the airport by noisy fixed wing and helicopter traffic, but aviation groups soon sued. While the U.S. District Court upheld two out of three of the town’s rules, they were struck down by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in November 2016, shortly after which the town announced its intent to take the matter to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The town maintains it has the right to exert local control over its airport after not taking federal funds for upkeep of the airport for several years, with the intent of allowing so-called “grant assurances” that the town would not restrict aircraft to expire.
“For the last three years, this town board has been fighting to regain local control of our airport,” said Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell in a press release Monday afternoon. “We followed the FAA’s advice and elected to forgo federal funding so that we could protect our residents. We engaged in a lengthy public process to identify meaningful but reasonable restrictions, and the District Court agreed that we met that test. But, with the stroke of a pen, the appeals court decision has federalized our airport and stripped us – and the thousands of similarly situated airports – of the ability to exert local control. We cannot let that decision stand.”
The town is being represented by outside appellate attorneys Kathleen Sullivan and David Cooper of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart and Sullivan, LLP.
Here is the town’s Petition for A Writ of Certiorari to the Supreme Court.
In April 2015, the town adopted two local laws instituting year-round curfews — a mandatory nighttime curfew from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m., and an extended curfew on noisy aircraft from 8 p.m. to 9 a.m.
The town also enacted a third law imposing a one-trip-a-week restriction on noisy aircraft.
Soon after, a group of aviation advocates filed a legal action in federal court seeking to delay implementation of the laws.
Upon initial review, the Federal District Court for the Eastern District of New York stated that “it cannot be argued that the town lacked the data to support a finding of a noise problem at the airport” and upheld the two curfews as reasonable, but issued a preliminary injunction against the one-trip-per week limit.
According to the town, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals decision overturning that ruling “radically reversed decades of FAA practice and the accepted interpretation of federal aviation law, by prohibiting any airport from making local decisions, even when the airport proprietor does not receive federal funds. The effect is an unprecedented expansion
of federal regulatory authority.”
“The last thing we need is the federal government running our airport,” said East Hampton Councilwoman Kathee Burke-Gonzalez, who serves as the town board’s liaison to the airport. “The Second Circuit’s decision subjects us to an onerous and costly FAA review process that places the solution to the noise problem in the hands of the FAA. That is unacceptable. We have fought long and hard to protect our quality of life and it is too important to let the court of appeals undermine that.”
“The town board is pursuing all avenues for redress – both in the courts and in Congress – and we will continue the fight until we regain local control of East Hampton Airport,” she added.