Attorney General Richard Blumenthal filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court Tuesday seeking to continue a suit brought by local municipalities, which this summer lost their case to block 2006 changes to flight paths that they believe will result in environmental damage and harmful noise levels.
In August, the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia rejected Blumenthal's arguments to overturn the court's June decision that the Federal Aviation Administration had conducted an adequate analysis of the plan's potential air quality and noise effects.
The plan's adoption will eliminate an estimated 200,000 hours worth of delays each year at New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania airports, the FAA estimates.
"We are asking the Supreme Court to ground a bad decision -- to override the FAA and its failure to follow the law and its own rules," Blumenthal said Tuesday. "The FAA is flying above the law enabled by a bad appeals court ruling."
Blumenthal argues the FAA's analysis used flawed data in the redesign, botching estimates of flights above Fairfield County, and also ignored a requirement to consider using alternate flight paths over Long Island Sound to mitigate the noise effects on communities.
The FAA's analysis found noise increases would be within government standards.
Blumenthal said the Washington court decision violated Connecticut's 10th Amendment right to seek the elimination of federal policies harmful to its citizens.
"The FAA based its new flight paths on defective data concerning noise and traffic -- disregarding the impact on millions of residents in the region and dismissing less damaging alternatives," Blumenthal said.
FAA spokesman Jim Peters declined comment on Blumenthal's new filing.
Blumenthal said the FAA case involves some of the same legal and environmental concerns as a case two years ago in which the Supreme Court ruled that the federal Environmental Protection Agency must regulate carbon dioxide emissions from automobiles under the Clean Air Act.
"They had decided the Clean Air Act didn't apply to carbon dioxide emissions and the court found that position was wrong," Blumenthal said. "We're in an uphill battle but the Supreme Court does strike down administrative agency cases and I'm hopeful."
Adopted changes in flight paths at Kennedy International and LaGuardia airports to affect Connecticut residents will not be in place until at least 2012, Peters said.
In 2007, Stamford, Greenwich, Darien, New Canaan, Norwalk, Westport, and six other municipalities formed the Alliance for Sensible Airspace Planning and sued the FAA to overturn the flight changes.
The changes would reroute an additional 150 flights over Fairfield County each day, according to the 2007 lawsuit.
Despite the FAA's position that flight paths have not changed, area residents believe the amount of air traffic has increased, said former New Canaan First Selectwoman Judy Neville and Ridgefield First Selectman Rudy Marconi, two officials who have helped coordinate efforts by area towns to block the changes.
Since 2006, residents of New Canaan and Ridgefield have tried to quantify what appear to be more and lower-flying flights over the area, said Neville, the chief operating officer for the alliance.
Neville said at public hearings in 2005 when she was serving as first selectwoman, FAA regulators were reluctant to offer solid estimates of the potential traffic created by the flight plan changes.
What we're seeing now is just a drop in the bucket compared to what the eventual impact will be," Neville said. "Eventually the economy will recover and people will begin flying again. Then we'll ask how did this ever happen?"
Opponents are also monitoring a nascent plan being discussed by the FAA that would expand the space around regional airports for commercial jets, Marconi said.
The plan, which Peters said the FAA is still in the preliminary stages of considering, would expand and lower so-called Class B airspace -- which is designated to commercial aircraft into a lower layer of space usually reserved for smaller planes.
Marconi said the plan raises serious flight safety concerns as well as issues of equity for general aviators who would be forced into a narrower area.
"I don't know if the FAA has in any of its works taken general aviation into consideration," Marconi said.