Attorney General Lockyer Challenges Adequacy of Environmental Review for Mammoth Airport Expansion Plan

Tuesday, September 24, 2002
Contact: (415) 703-5837, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

(SACRAMENTO) - Attorney General Bill Lockyer today filed a federal court challenge to the proposed expansion of the Mammoth Yosemite Airport, contending that the Federal Aviation Administration failed to adequately review the profound impact the project would have on the Sierra Nevada environment.

The proposed project seeks to expand a rural, non-commercial airport to accommodate jet aircraft as large as a Boeing B-757. Changes would include widening and lengthening the existing runway so it can be used by large jets and other construction to facilitate commercial passenger traffic.

"We believe the FAA wrongly concludes there will be ‘no significant impact' from increases in air traffic and runway upgrades seeking to accommodate commercial jets as large as the Boeing 757," Lockyer said. "At issue is the adequacy of the environmental impact reviews and failure to address the many questions raised by state and federal agencies about the substantial effects airport expansion will have on the environmentally sensitive and ecologically important region."

Filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, the challenge questions the adequacy of the environmental impact review conducted for the airport expansion plan under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The law requires the federal agency approving or funding the project to prepare an environmental impact statement whenever a project may "significantly affect" the environment.

The lawsuit challenging the adequacy of the FAA environmental impact review notes that "as the FAA itself has acknowledged, the Airport, once expanded, will serve as a gateway to the eastern Sierra, facilitating increased use and development of the eastern Sierra Nevada." The complaint notes that the FAA forecasts 900 Boeing 757 take-offs and landings per year and 800 Boeing 737 take-offs and landings per year by 2022.

"In spite of the controversy engendered by the project, the substantial objections and concerns of numerous state and federal agencies having relevant expertise and responsibilities concerning the area's resources" the FAA has issued its final environmental assessment of no significant impact. The complaint asks the court to require compliance with NEPA.

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