East Hampton’s Airport Restrictions Struck Down By Federal Appeals Court

At the East Hampton Airport in September.
At the East Hampton Airport in September.

A federal appeals court has struck down the three airport restrictions proposed last year by East Hampton Town aimed at curbing noisy aircrafts’ use of the town’s municipal airport.

A group of aviation advocates calling themselves Friends of the East Hampton Airport sued the town last spring after the town attempted to enact curfews and trip limits on noisy aircraft that use the airport, alleging that the restrictions violate the 1990 federal Airport Noise and Capacity Act, which regulates noisy aircraft.

The aviation group also argued that the town doesn’t have the right to enact noise restrictions based on assurances they made to the federal government, as a condition of grant funding, that they would not restrict access to the airport until 2021. The town has maintained the position that those so-called “grant assurances” expired at the start of 2015.

The restrictions included a mandatory nighttime curfew, from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m., an extended curfew on noisy aircraft from 8 p.m. to 9 a.m. and a limit on operations by noisy aircraft of one trip per week during the summer season.

The two curfews have been in effect since the summer of 2015, but the court granted an preliminary injunction prohibiting the one-trip limit while the case was being argued.

Justice Reena Raggi wrote in Friday’s United States Second Circuit Court of Appeals decision that all three local laws are preempted by the Airport Noise and Capacity Act, upholding the case for the Second District Court’s decision to bar enforcement of all three laws.

“The Town of East Hampton is deeply disappointed in the Second Circuit Court of Appeal’s decision to enjoin the town’s three local laws regarding access restrictions at East Hampton Airport,” according to a statement from the town sent to reporters by Town Attorney Michael Sendlenski Friday afternoon. “The court’s opinion undermines local control of operations at the town-owned airport property and establishes that the federal bureaucracy controls regulations in the area of aviation noise abatement and control.”

The Court of Appeals’ decision maintains that that ANCA preempts the local laws, and that noise restrictions are allowed only if they meet the procedural requirements of the federal law, and maintains that this is mandatory for any public airport regardless of whether or not they receive federal funding.

“The town adopted three local laws imposing use restrictions on certain operations at the airport after historic efforts to engage public comment, study aviation noise issues and find balanced solutions,” according to the town’s statement. “In doing so, the town relied upon written statements made by the Federal Aviation Administration to then-Congressman [Tim] Bishop stating that the town was not required to engage in the lengthy FAA bureaucratic review and approval process under the Airport Noise and Capacity Act (ANCA) but could instead, as proprietor of the airport, adopt reasonable noise restrictions. Unfortunately, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals decision has usurped the town’s local authority, contrary to the assurances of the FAA written statement to Congressman Bishop, therefore making burdensome ANCA review and FAA approval mandatory for any aviation noise regulations adopted by an airport proprietor.”

“In its capacity as proprietor of the East Hampton Airport, the town board has always held the belief that it had a public policy responsibility to protect local residents from the loud and disturbing effects of aircraft noise,” according to the town’s statement. “The town board has sought to provide residents who are impacted by aircraft noise meaningful and deserved relief…. In two summer seasons of implementation, the town saw over 99 percent compliance with the curfew regulations. Although today’s court decision places the solution to aviation noise problem firmly at the feet of Congress and the FAA, the town will continue to explore every available option so that the residents of the East End won’t continue to be inflicted by an unrelenting din from the skies above.”

Beth Young

Beth Young has been covering the East End since the 1990s. In her spare time, she runs around the block, tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

2 thoughts on “East Hampton’s Airport Restrictions Struck Down By Federal Appeals Court

  • November 5, 2016 at 1:10 pm

    $$$$$$$$$$$$$ win again, as always. Democracy is an increasingly distant memory.

  • November 7, 2016 at 9:44 am

    The well known consultant who conducted the noise study for the Town should have been able to predict this outcome based on case history from similar legal challenges in the US


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