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Appeals Court Dismisses Challenge to Santa Monica Airport Decree But Case Continues


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June 13, 2018 -- A U.S. Court of Appeals on Tuesday dismissed a case challenging the City of Santa Monica's right to shutter its century-old airport in ten years and in the meantime shorten its runway.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit rejected the case filed by the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) to overturn the agreement struck between the City and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in February of last year on procedural grounds.

“The ruling by the D.C. Circuit affirms yet again that our agreement with the FAA is sound,” Mayor Ted Winterer said in a statement. “One year in, we see the terms of the agreement in action are working.

"The runway shortening has significantly reduced jet traffic and we are steadily creating a plan to convert airport land into a great park that will benefit the entire community.”

The NBAA said the ruling did not address the merits of the case, setting up a showdown in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers California.

“We're obviously disappointed by this decision, but it's important to note the court did not make a determination as to the merits of our arguments against the validity of the original settlement agreement,” said NBAA president and CEO Ed Bolen.

“This ruling was purely a matter of procedure, and in no way does it establish a precedent by which the FAA may enter into similar agreements affecting the fates of other vital general aviation airports.”

NBAA argues that the Consent Decree violates several statutes and that the FAA failed to inform or engage airport users and tenants before the deal was struck.

Tuesday's ruling comes more than one year after the District Court rejected the NBAA's attempt to immediately halt the consent decree ("Circuit Court Denies Injunction to Halt Implementation of Santa Monica Airport Closure Deal," May 5, 2017).

The Court, City officials said, found there is “nothing unusual or untoward about parties settling litigation through a consent decree.”

But the Court also decided the agreement was worthy of a more in-depth review and sent the case to a separate “merits panel” of judges ("Pro-Santa Monica Airport Aviation Group Finds Encouraging News in Court of Appeals Rejection," May 10, 2017).


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