Burien Council told FAA violated environmental law with flight path change 1 When asked who was present to support the Quiet Skies Coalition, many at Monday night’s Burien Council meeting raised their hands. Photo by Scott Schaefer.[/caption] By Jack Mayne The Burien City Council has been told that the Federal Aviation Administration has failed to meet requirements of the federal environmental policy law by not conducting an impact study before it ordered prop-jet planes to turn over the city, causing added noise and pollution for residents of the city, particularly the Seahurst neighborhood. The Council also voted to form a new citizen-government committee to consider problems of noise and other concerns the city has with Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. It is seeking citizens who wish to join the committee (read more here). The Dec. 19 Council session also considered, and then improperly voted to approve a Sanctuary City designation (see our previous story here). Burien Council told FAA violated environmental law with flight path change 2Airport is great threat Larry Cripe (pictured, left), president of the local Quiet Skies Coalition, told the Council that “there is no greater single threat to our community than the FAA and the Port of Seattle and what they have thrust upon the citizens of Burien. What they have done is nothing short of blatant disregard of the law and an abuse of power by public officials in forcing their will on the people that they are paid to serve.” He said the Burien City Council has a responsibility to protect its citizens, and added that Quiet Skies was formed to fight the effects on noise and pollution. “We’ve tried unsuccessfully to get the FAA to come to the table to talk with us about the abuse of power and we are left with no other option other than to pursue legal actions against them.” “As elected officials, it is imperative that you understand the seriousness and long-term impact that this will have on our community” and to release funds that it has set aside about three weeks prior for ligation. Violated environment lawBurien Council told FAA violated environmental law with flight path change 3 A Quiet Skies member and West Burien resident Walt Bala (pictured, right), a former airline pilot and FAA inspector, said he researched the FAA for its needs to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Bala said the law requires that the FAA “decision process must consider and disclose the potential impacts of a proposed action and its alternatives on the quality of the human environment.” So he said he dug more deeply into the requirements the environmental law imposes on the agency. He found that the law requires that “anytime they make a turn below 3,000 feet over an environmental sensitive area, they must do an environmental impact statement or assessment,” Bala said. The recent change that has so upset Burien residents is that prop-jet commuter planes are turning over Burien at less than 3,000 feet. No public comment He asked the FAA for documents show they made that assessment and got back a response on Dec. 18 and there “was nothing in that that addressed environmental impact.” So Bala said he dug further into the matter and said the FAA has “got nothing to support the action they have taken” which is the order for planes to make a left turn over Burien. “There was no public disclosure, no comment period, no alternative which should be part of the process.” He said he asked the FAA again about that result and “they came back in their own words and said they did not have any documents, files or records that showed they provided any of the compliance features of the NEPA requirements. “Basically, we’ve got a pretty strong case” and added “we should be able to hold their feet to the fire in a court case … to hold a public discussion.” Burien Council told FAA violated environmental law with flight path change 4John Parness (pictured, left), a Burien resident and attorney, but one who does not practice aviation law, said Quiet Skies has retained a lawyer “who is heavily in the law of national flight path modification controversies” involving next-generation aircraft and the FAA. Experienced lawyer hired He said Quiet Skies has enough money to hire the “top-flight” lawyer to fight the flight path changes. “We’ve done that because the good people in this room and others who couldn’t attend (the Dec. 19 City Council meeting) donated hard-earned money to fund our organization,” Parness said. That lawyer has said there is a “very tight deadline for a suit against the FAA. Parness said Quiet Skies thinks the plane noise problem is one that affects the entire city and costs should be shared by Burien city government, adding they did not expect the city to make a decision on contributing money to the cause immediately, but suggested a briefing by their lawyer be held soon. Seahurst resident and realtor Susan Plecko, a Quiet Skies board member, urged the Council to help “fight this cause, and it’s going to take money and I know that you have set aside funds for litigation and we would like to work with you in order to protect our city and our property values.” Burien Council told FAA violated environmental law with flight path change 5Joel Wachtel (pictured, right), a SeaTac resident and member of that city’s mayor-appointed Airport Advisory Council, said the Port of Seattle and its airport “really doesn’t care about the people in the cities around the airport. All they care about the airport is making it bigger, making more money and they will do whatever they can to shortcut and you have to stand strong because if you give them an inch, they’ll roll over you.” No money yet The Council did not discuss granting any city funds to Quiet Skies, putting off that consideration until after more meetings and discussions in 2017. It did approve formation of an airport committee to consider impacts of Sea-Tac Airport and the ramifications of its effects upon Burien. The membership of the new committee will include three Councilmembers, one of whom will be the committee chairman, three members from the Burien business community, and three Burien residents. It is similar to one in SeaTac that has been in operation by mayoral appointment for several months and which has met with Port of Seattle officials and hopes for a meeting next month with the Federal Aviation Agency.]]>