After much discussion about the impacts of the Court of Appeals ruling during the summer Aviation Board meetings, a decision was finally made that surprised no one. The commercial interests at Aurora Airport mounted an all-out full court press on the Aviation Board that the Court of Appeals ruling had to be taken to the State Supreme Court in order to have this “bad law” reversed.
It is worth noting how this was managed. Instead of just the local commercial interests making their conventional pleas about the need for expanding the airport to enhance safety, this time around they had representatives from at least ten national aviation industry groups who essentially claimed that the C of A ruling had national and even international implications and had to be challenged or it could be the end of aviation as we know it!
That type of appeal, of course, was just what the Aviation Board wanted to hear, as the majority of the Board made it quite clear they agreed. As a state agency, though, they had to go through the motions. That began with an assessment of their options, which were 1) Rule Making (getting LCDC to write administrative rules that resolved the C of A ruling), 2) Legislative (getting legislators to craft a “super siting” bill for Aurora that changed the law in their favor), or 3) Judicial (filing a petition of review at the Supreme Court seeking to having the C of A ruling reversed).
Two pieces of drama were interesting to watch. The first was the Dept. of Justice attorney who informed the Board that the decision was not theirs alone and would depend on the DOJ assessment in as much as they represented the Dept. of Aviation. To that Sen. Betsy Johnson assertively told everyone that ODA was the “client” in this matter, and that they should be telling DOJ what to do, not the other way around.
The second was, in spite of a very limited budget for legal expense, Sen. Johnson assuring the Board that she (as Co-Chair of the Ways and Means Committee) would make sure funding was made available to cover legal expenses. In September the commercial interests (Intervenors) at the airport filed their own petition for review with the Supreme Court, putting further pressure on the Aviation Board.
The seriousness of Sen. Johnson’s statement became apparent in October when Board Chair Meeker told the Board that she had “promised” she’d get them the necessary funds for legal expense, and to no one’s surprise, the Board then voted unanimously in favor of filing their own petition with the Supreme Court.
What’s next? The first step is a four to six month period wherein the Supreme Court determines if they will grant a petition for review or not. If so, then there is another four to six month period before a ruling would be forthcoming.