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Court Requires Full Study of Mammoth Airport Expansion

A federal judge in San Francisco has ordered the Federal Aviation Administration to produce a full environmental impact statement before proceeding with a major expansion of the airport at Mammoth Lakes, on the east side of the Sierra Nevada in California.

Citing concerns raised not only by environmental groups but also by state and federal agencies, Judge Bernard Zimmerman rejected the FAA's claim that it had satisfied National Environmental Policy Act requirements through its preparation of an Environmental Assessment and ordered the FAA to prepare and adopt a full Environmental Impact Statement before construction of the airport expansion can commence.

In his ruling, Judge Zimmerman found:

"At bottom, many deficiencies in the [Final Environmental Assessment] can be attributed to defendants' myopic view of the airport project. . . .Common sense dictates that improving an airport to introduce regular commercial air service in an area known for, and reliant on, tourism, will have a substantial impact on a number of environmental factors. . . .The FEA's conclusion that the project would have no significant impact on endangered or threatened species strains credulity."

Meanwhile, a group of pro-bono attorneys working with Earthjustice's Trent Orr has filed a parallel suit in state court, seeking environmental review of the project under the California Environmental Quality Act.