City to appeal FAA’s Paine Field ruling

By Paul Archipley | Dec 19, 2012

Don’t start packing your bag for a flight out of Paine Field just yet.

The Mukilteo City Council on Monday unanimously voted to appeal the FAA decision to permit commercial passenger service out of the Snohomish County Airport.

The city has enlisted the services of Dr. Barbara Lichman, an attorney who specializes in airport-related issues.

During an executive session, the council consulted with Dr. Lichman for about 20 minutes, then passed a resolution in open session directing the city administration to move forward with an appeal.

The appeal will be filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco, challenging the FAA’s ruling.

“It’s the right thing to do,” Council Vice President Jennifer Gregerson said. “Their study was flawed, and Mukilteo deserves a vigorous defense.”

Mayor Joe Marine said Mukilteo likely won’t stand alone. “There probably will be other cities that will sign on,” Marine said.

Anticipating the FAA’s decision, the city established a defense fund that stands at about $150,000.

Besides attorney fees, costs will include a “discovery process” in which the FAA will be required to build its record of documents to defend its decision.

That likely won’t happen quickly.

The mayor noted the FAA practically waited until the final minute to release its Paine Field decision, “so it’s no wonder it was flawed.”

City officials expect an appeals court judge will have to set a deadline to prod the FAA to build its record for the appeal hearing.

Officials were pleased to have Lichman in their corner, too.

“This is her area of expertise,” Marine said. “They know her well.”

City officials hope to compel the FAA to undertake a complete environmental review.

“The best outcome would be to unwind this and require a more thorough review,” council President Richard Emery said.

City officials also will urge the county to make sure interested airlines are on the hook for costs, such as building a terminal.

“We’d like to make it expensive enough that the airlines decide it’s not worth it,” Emery said.

And city officials are confident they’re representing the vast majority of their constituents.

Since the FAA released its decision a few weeks ago, only a couple of people have called City Hall to demand the city step down and let commercial service begin.

The vast majority, the electeds said, have called on them to continue the fight.

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