By Jasper Craven Aug 9 2018, 2:54 PM
A coalition of Chittenden County activists opposed to the basing of F-35 fighter jets at Burlington International Airport are calling on the Air Force to undertake a new environmental review of the planes’ potential impact on the area and its residents.
The opponents, organized loosely under the banner “Save Our Skies,” contend that new information calls into the question the accuracy of the original 2013 federal assessment.
They also have also filed a series of public records requests seeking more information on the impending jet basing — set to begin in fall 2019 — including whether nuclear weapons would be housed in Vermont. They say they are considering a lawsuit if their demands for a new review aren’t met.
In a letter dated Aug. 3, Save Our Skies lawyer James Dumont of Bristol says the initial Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for Burlington was invalidated when Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson told multiple Vermont officials this spring that the “Vermont Air National Guard would likely lose their flying mission upon the retirement of the F-16s.”
The Air Force’s EIS compared noise and other environmental factors between the current fleet of F-16s based in Vermont and the F-35, not — as would be the case following the recent Air Force statement — between the F-16s and no planes at all. The 2013 review also noted that “if there is no F-35A operational beddown at Burlington, the current mission would continue.”
“If Vermonters knew the alternative to the F-35 was going to be no fighter planes and zero jet noise, it very well might have changed the way people viewed this basing,” said Retired Col. Rosanne Greco, the de facto leader of the F-35 opposition movement. “Spending on home insulation for jet noise would not have happened and home demolition wouldn’t have occurred.”