Court blocks New York's East Hampton from restricting flights

November 4, 2016 1:28 PM EDT

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By Jonathan Stempel

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The town of East Hampton, New York, a popular summer getaway for celebrities and Wall Street's rich and powerful, cannot enforce three local laws designed to limit the flow of noisy aircraft into its airport, a federal appeals court ruled on Friday.

By a 3-0 vote, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan ordered a preliminary injunction against enforcing the laws, saying that East Hampton enacted them without complying with a 1990 federal law governing airport noise and capacity.

The town board of East Hampton, located about 125 miles (201 km) east of Manhattan, had in April 2015 restricted what it called noisy aircraft to one takeoff and landing per week from May to September, when its population rises to about 94,000 from roughly 21,500 year-round.

It also imposed curfews of 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. on all flights, and 8 p.m. to 9 a.m. on noisy flights.

Many wealthy people spend hundreds of dollars on chartered planes and helicopters to get to the Hamptons, rather than brave traffic on the Long Island Expressway or pay $28.25 on the Long Island Rail Road.

In June 2015, U.S. District Judge Joanna Seybert had blocked enforcement of the summer flight limit while allowing the nighttime curfews.

But while expressing "no view" about the laws' wisdom, Circuit Judge Reena Raggi wrote on Friday that Congress intended when passing the Airport Noise and Capacity Act of 1990 that airport noise policies be set at the national level.

She rejected East Hampton's argument that it could act on its own because it accepted no federal funding for its airport.

"ANCA establishes what Congress thought were necessary procedures for a reasonable exercise of proprietary authority within the national aviation system," Raggi wrote in a 57-page decision.

Lawyers for East Hampton including Kathleen Sullivan, a partner at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

East Hampton's laws had been challenged by aviation trade groups and several aviation companies.

The decision "recognizes the town's obligation to follow the law like every other public airport in this country before enacting flight restrictions," their lawyer Lisa Zornberg said.

Lauren Haertlein, director of safety and regulatory affairs at the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, also welcomed the decision.

She called federal preemption of laws such as East Hampton's "necessary to prevent a patchwork of local restrictions" that hinder national air transport and the development of quieter aviation technology.

The case is Friends of the East Hampton Airport Inc et al v. Town of East Hampton, 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Nos. 15-2334, 15-2465.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; editing by Grant McCool)



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