The Second Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a district court ruling that federal aviation laws do not preempt Connecticut environmental laws and related municipal ordinances that require an airport to obtain a permit to cut down trees in nearby wetlands. Goodspeed Airport LLC v. E. Haddam Inland Wetlands & Watercourses Comm’n, No. 10-516 (2d Cir. 2/10/11).
The airport argued that the trees it wanted to raze fell within the definition of “obstructions to navigation” under the Federal Aviation Act and Airline Deregulation Act and their implementing regulations, and, thus, the state laws and ordinances are preempted. It further argued that the state laws and local ordinances are “impermissible intrusions” on a field of regulation that Congress has indicated its intent to occupy.
Rejecting those arguments, both the district and appellate courts ruled that the Connecticut Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Act, Connecticut Environmental Protection Act and the municipal ordinances adopted under those laws are neither “expressly nor impliedly preempted” by the federal aviation laws and regulations cited by defendant. Both courts also expressed the view that, while the trees involved did pose “legitimate safety concerns,” the state laws and ordinances did not sufficiently intrude on the field of air safety to be preempted.