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Aircraft Owners & Pilots Ass'n v. Hinson

ELR Citation: 27 ELR 20813
Nos. Nos. 96-3418, -3439, 102 F.3d 1421/(7th Cir., 11/21/1996)

The court holds that a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) decision not to intervene in a city park district's refusal to renew a lease providing for the operation of Meigs Field airport was not a "major federal action" within the meaning of the National Environmental Policy Act. The court first holds that the FAA's power to influence the city by offering or threatening the withdrawal of federal grants or subsidies or by seeking sanctions does not rise to the level of major federal action, when neither its grant agreements with the city nor any applicable law required the FAA's approval for closing the airport. A provision in the grant agreements, which directed repayment of grant money in the event a long-term lease or purchase agreement for the airport was not entered into before the current lease expired, would have no meaning if the grant agreements obligated the city to continue to operate Meigs Field after the lease's expiration. The court next holds that even if the FAA had discretion to force the airport to remain open, the agency's decision not to assert such rights is not reviewable, because it is a decision not to institute enforcement proceedings. The court also holds that the use of the airport as a public park is consistent with the park district's grant of authority and does not violate the public trust doctrine. The court therefore affirms a district court's denial of plaintiffs' motion to preliminarily enjoin the airport closure because plaintiffs failed to demonstrate a reasonable likelihood of success on the merits.

Counsel for Plaintiffs
George Bullwinkel
Bullwinkel Partners
19 S. La Salle St., Ste. 1300, Chicago IL 60603
(312) 201-0777

Counsel for Defendants
Thomas P. Walsh, Ass't Attorney General
Attorney General's Office
Everett M. Dirksen Bldg.
219 S. Dearborn St., 5th Fl., Chicago IL 60604
(312) 353-5300

Before CUMMINGS, BAUER and EASTERBROOK, Circuit Judges.