City likely to appeal Paine Field decision
It is likely that Mukilteo will fight the FAA’s decision to allow commercial passenger service at Paine Field.
After nearly three years, the Federal Aviation Administration released its final determination on Dec. 4 that permitting commercial flights at the airport wouldn’t significantly increase noise, traffic or air pollution.
It was a decision that many had expected, as the agency’s environmental study of the impacts of adding up to 23 flights per day had reported the same findings: That environmentally there would be “no significant impact.”
The city has fought commercial air expansion at Paine Field throughout the years-long environmental review process.
Mayor Joe Marine said the city will likely continue the fight by appealing the FAA’s decision – but that it’s up to the City Council to make that call.
“We believe they had their minds made up even before they started the process,” Marine said. “They pretty much decided it three years ago.”
Following a meeting with the city’s lawyer on Thursday, the mayor said he plans to call an executive session with the council within the coming weeks about an appeal. Mukilteo has 60 days after the FAA ruling to decide.
An appeal wouldn’t stop commercial service, but it might help limit it or at least get some mitigation for it, Marine said. With a ruling of “no significant impacts,” commercial airlines wouldn’t be required to mitigate their flights.
Marine said the city attorney thinks Mukilteo has a very good case. Now, he said, councilmembers have to decide if they want to spend the dollars to fight it. Mukilteo has set aside a legal fund of more than $150,000 to fight Paine Field expansion.
“We do have a very significant airport here, and I don’t think even the supporters of commercial service at Paine Field would want to see it go completely unchecked and hinder any manufacturing base,” he said.
“Aerospace manufacturing is a huge asset to our region and county, and we’ve got to expand on that. It would be a much better economic driver than commercial flights.”
Save Our Communities, a group that opposes passenger flights at Paine Field, has called on the city to take the fight to court. SOC said the environmental study was too limited, and that it should have considered the possibility of additional flights in the future.
In 2008, Horizon Air and Allegiant Air had asked Snohomish County to allow them to offer commercial passenger service at Paine Field. Horizon, now Alaska Air, has reported that it is no longer interested and would keep its focus on Sea-Tac.
“We believe that Seattle-Tacoma International Airport is the best airport to serve the people of the Puget Sound area and would prefer to remain there,” said Bobbie Egan spokesperson for Alaska Airlines.
However, if a competitor were to offer commercial service at Paine Field, Alaska would respond by adding flights as well. Egan said the airline would use a full arsenal of airplanes, including the Boeing 737 jet and the Bombardier Q400 turboprop.
That competitor could be Las Vegas-based Allegiant, which continues to express interest in Paine Field.
A spokesperson explained that, while Allegiant is still interested, it has no immediate plans to expand to Snohomish County.
The spokesperson said it would like to start with four flights per week, increasing to about 20 per week over the next five years.
Council President Richard Emery, who supports an appeal, said the council would probably decide to continue fighting commercial service.
“We should certainly do something, and appealing the decision would be the first step,” he said.
“Everyone understands commercial traffic isn’t going to be good for Mukilteo or Boeing. I’m certainly in favor of pursuing whatever we can to stop or at least delay this for as long as possible.”
Council Vice President Jennifer Gregerson continues to be committed to defending the city against commercial flights.
“I support appealing the flawed FAA decision,” she said. “Our citizens deserve a true analysis of the impacts of commercial service. Until we get that, we need to keep fighting.”
The mayor said he is optimistic about the outcome of an appeal: “I might lose one little battle, but not the war.”