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Citizens Concerned About Jet Noise v. Dalton

ELR Citation: 29 ELR 21340
Nos. No. 2:98CV800, 48 F. Supp. 2d 582/(E.D. Va., 05/19/1999)

The court holds that the U.S. Department of the Navy's decision to transfer a large fleet of aircraft to a Virginia naval air station located near environmental group members' homes did not violate the National Environmental Policy Act. The court first holds that the Navy's consideration of the Virginia naval air station as the only single-site option for aircraft, its failure to consider any alternatives that placed less than one-half of the aircraft at the Virginia station, and its decision not to consider relocating U.S. Marine Corps aircraft from a South Carolina base were reasonable interpretations of the 1995 base realignment and closure report authorized by Congress. The court then holds that the Navy was entitled to use operational, nonenvironmental criteria to develop the various alternatives for moving the aircraft fleet.

The court next holds that the Navy's final environmental impact statement (EIS) adequately informed the decisionmaker of the significant adverse noise consequences of the fleet's relocation on the human environment. The Navy's use of 1990 census figures in the EIS was consistent, reasonable, and accurately represented the scope and magnitude of the difference in noise effects on the areas surrounding each air station. Further, by using the same methodology at each air station to arrive at each station's noise contours, the EIS properly represented the relative impact of increased noise on the populations surrounding the three air stations. Moreover, the choice of methodology for assessing the noise impacts was within the Navy's discretion.

The court then holds that the EIS properly discussed the transfer's impact on community costs, property values, and safety risks. The court next holds that the Navy did not act arbitrarily and capriciously by failing to discuss the health effects of additional airborne pollutants caused by the fleet transfer because the air impact analysis indicated that the proposed action was in conformity with a state maintenance plan for an area in attainment status for all relevant pollutants. Further, the court holds that the EIS adequately discussed possible mitigation measures that could be undertaken at the Virginia station. The court then holds that it lacks jurisdiction to review the EIS' environmental justice analysis. The court next holds that the EIS contained a substantial and adequate discussion of the cumulative impacts of the transfer. Last, the environmental group pointed to no evidence in the administrative record indicating that the Navy's ultimate decisionmaker for the fleet transfer concluded before completion of the EIS that the fleet would be transferred to Virginia.

Counsel for Plaintiff
Jack E. Ferrebee
Law Offices of Jack E. Ferrebee
1060 Laskin Rd., Ste. 12B, Virginia Beach VA 23451
(757) 425-2234

Counsel for Defendants
Susan L. Watt, Ass't U.S. Attorney
U.S. Attorney's Office
101 W. Main St., Ste. 8000, Norfolk VA 23510
(757) 441-6331