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Goodspeed Airport LLC v. East Haddam Inland Wetlands & Watercourses Commission

February 10, 2011

GOODSPEED AIRPORT LLC, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
EAST HADDAM INLAND WETLANDS & WATERCOURSES COMMISSION, JAMES VENTRES, DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES, STATE OF CONNECTICUT, AMICUS CURIAE.*FN1



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Wesley, Circuit Judge:

10-516-cv

Goodspeed Airport v. Dep't of Envtl. Prot. et al.

Argued: January 10, 2011

Before: POOLER, KATZMANN, and WESLEY, Circuit Judges.

Appeal from judgment of the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut (Kravitz, J.), entered on January 13, 2010 after bench trial, in favor of Defendants- Appellees, determining that the Connecticut Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Act and the Connecticut Environmental Protection Act, as well as municipal regulations pursuant thereto (specifically the imposition of a permit requirement on cutting trees on protected wetlands), are neither expressly nor impliedly preempted by the Federal Aviation Act, the Airline Deregulation Act, or Federal Aviation Agency regulations promulgated thereunder.

AFFIRMED.

Plaintiff-Appellant Goodspeed Airport LLC appeals from a judgment of the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut (Kravitz, J.), entered after a bench trial, in favor of Defendants-Appellees East Haddam Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Commission and James Ventres. Goodspeed Airport sought declaratory and injunctive relief establishing and protecting its right to cut certain trees on its property, part of which is protected wetlands. Under Connecticut law and municipal regulations, a person must apply for permission to undertake activities affecting wetlands. We write to clarify what to date this Court has suggested only in dicta: that Congress has established its intent to occupy the entire field of air safety, thereby preempting state regulation of that field. However, the state and local laws and regulatory scheme at issue in the instant appeal do not sufficiently intrude upon the field of air safety to be preempted. Nor are they expressly preempted by the Airline Deregulation Act.

Accordingly, the judgment of the district court is AFFIRMED.

I. BACKGROUND

The facts of this case, as well as the statutory and regulatory context, are discussed at length in the district 17 court's thorough and well-reasoned opinion. Goodspeed 18 Airport, LLC v. East Haddam Inland Wetlands & Watercourses 19 Comm'n (Goodspeed), 681 F. Supp. 2d 182 (D. Conn. 2010). We 20 discuss only those aspects of the case necessary to an 21 understanding of the issues presented on appeal. 22 Appellant Goodspeed Airport (the "Airport") is a small, 1 state-licensed, privately owned and operated commercial 2 airport in East Haddam, Connecticut. Appellee James Ventres 3 is the enforcement officer for Appellee East Haddam Inland 4 Wetlands and Watercourses Commission ("IWWC").

The IWWC is a municipal regulatory body established 6 pursuant to the Connecticut Inland Wetlands and Watercourses 7 Act ("IWWA"). The IWWA declares that it is "the public policy 8 of [Connecticut] to require municipal regulation of activities 9 affecting the wetlands and watercourses within the territorial 10 limits of the [state's] various municipalities or districts."

11 Conn. Gen. Stat. § 22a-42(a). The IWWC may issue cease and 12 desist orders and bring actions to enforce the act's 13 provisions. Persons within its jurisdiction are required to 14 apply to the IWWC for permission before undertaking activities 15 affecting protected land.

16 The Airport's property is partly composed of protected 17 wetlands. This protected land contains trees and other 18 vegetation which the Airport wishes to cut down. In January 19 2001, the IWWC issued Goodspeed a Cease and Desist Order (the 20 "Order") instructing it to refrain from "all regulated 21 activity within seventy-five feet of inland/wetlands and 22 watercourses (regulated areas) on your property[.]" The Order 1 cited as its authority certain regulations of the Town of East 2 Haddam, adopted and promulgated under Connecticut General 3 Statute Section 22a. This Order was later withdrawn, but 4 Appellees continue to assert that the Airport is obliged to 5 obtain a permit before cutting the trees.

6 The Airport contends - and Appellees do not contest - 7 that some of the trees it wishes to cut down fall within the 8 definition of "obstructions to air navigation" under 14 C.F.R. 9 Part 77 ("FAA Regulations"). The FAA Regulations establish 10 standards for identifying these obstructions, defining an 11 imaginary surface in the shape of a bowl around regulated 12 runways. Id. ...


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