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AG Tong asks Supreme Court to review appeals court ruling on Tweed Airport

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Connecticut Attorney General William Tong has asked the U.S. Supreme Court for its input on an appeals court ruling that would enable Tweed New Haven Airport to expand its runway despite a state-imposed mandate limiting its length.

Tweed
Tweed airport entrance. Photo by Phil Hall.

In July, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit issued a 23-page decision that voided a 2009 state statute limiting the airport’s runway to 5,600 feet. The decision, which overturned a 2017 lower court ruling against the airport, acknowledged that Tweed’s runway is “one of the shortest commercial airport runways in the country” and determined that the final determination on its runway length lies with the Federal Aviation Administration and not the state.

Tweed is the only airport along the Connecticut shoreline to offer commercial air routes and has been seeking to expand its runway length to at least 6,000 in order to attract carriers. The other airports along the Connecticut shoreline only offer corporate and private aviation – Sikorsky Memorial Airport, owned by the city of Bridgeport but located in Stratford, stopped offering commercial flights in 1999 and Groton-New London Airport ceased its commercial flight offerings in 2004.

Tong filed a petition for a writ of certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court to review the appeals court ruling, and is seeking a high court decision on whether the airport can sue the state under the U.S. Constitution’s Supremacy Clause, as well as whether the FAA can preempt state law regarding the airport’s runway length.

“We believe both these issues are of national, state and local significance and merit Supreme Court review,” Tong said.

Tweed Executive Director Sean Scanlon issued a statement conveying displeasure with Tong’s action while expressing hope for a speedy resolution to the matter.

“We are disappointed in the attorney general’s decision to file a petition for certiorari in the Supreme Court and believe the circuit court’s unanimous decision in our favor was correct and should have ended this litigation,” Scanlon said. “We look forward to a prompt resolution of the case in the Supreme Court so that we can proceed with our plans to extend the length of our runway and foster the tremendous economic growth that will come from a more vibrant airport in southern Connecticut.”

Scanlon is scheduled to host a pair of public information meetings this week in New Haven and East Haven updating the airport’s master plan regarding the economic benefits from an expanded runway.

Gov. Ned Lamont supported a runway expansion during his 2018 gubernatorial campaign, and his recently introduced CT2030 plan calls for “a fully functioning regional airport in southern Connecticut,” although he stopped short of identifying which of the three airports should be the center of that endeavor.

Lamont offered no public comment on Tong’s decision to involve the Supreme Court in the issue.

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