Frosh Chooses Outside Law Firm To File Suit Against FAA Over Airplane Noise

Change in flight paths led to thousands of noise complaints in Maryland, including Montgomery County


Airplane flying overhead


Maryland is taking steps to sue the Federal Aviation Administration over growing residential noise complaints that began after the agency changed airplane flight paths to make air travel more efficient.

Attorney General Brian Frosh announced Tuesday that the state has retained the firm Kaplan Kirsch & Rockwell, which has offices in Washington, D.C., Denver and New York, to represent Maryland in a lawsuit against the FAA.

“The noise from these new flight paths is disturbing and disruptive to the lives of many Marylanders,” Frosh said in a statement. “We searched for a team of experts to assist us. It’s a very narrow field and requires a great deal of expertise—expertise which only a handful of law firms around the country have.”

Kaplan Kirsch previous represented Phoenix, Arizona, in a lawsuit it won in August against the FAA over airplane noise caused by NextGen flight path changes.

Previously, Gov. Larry Hogan asked Frosh to pursue legal action against the agency.

“As the governor made clear when he directed Attorney General Frosh to file this lawsuit, the [Hogan] administration expects immediate legal action,” Shareese Churchill, a spokeswoman for the governor, wrote in an email Tuesday. “Any further delay will only harm countless Maryland citizens who have been needlessly suffering due to these misguided and harmful regulations.”

The FAA instituted NextGen in 2014 to streamline air traffic into “super highways” to reduce fuel costs and increase safety, according to the agency. In Montgomery County, the streamlined air routes to and from Reagan National Airport in D.C. resulted in significant airplane noise in Potomac, Cabin John and Bethesda neighborhoods that didn’t experience significant noise problems previously.

Previously, the Montgomery County Council approved an approximately $7,500 deal to hire the law firm Dentons LLP to investigate whether the county could pursue a lawsuit against the FAA over the issue. The county noted that noise complaints it received about airplane noise rose from 38 in 2015 to 807 in 2016 after flight path changes were completed.

County Council President Roger Berliner said during a press briefing Monday that the county received a memo from Dentons about a potential lawsuit and will share that with the firm hired by the state.

Residents in neighborhoods surrounding Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport also have complained about increase airplane noise after the flight path changes.

Last week, both U.S. Senators from Maryland, Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, wrote a letter to Frosh supporting a move to file a lawsuit against the federal agency.

“More than two years after implementation, the FAA has yet to make any substantive changes to these shifted and narrowed flight paths, and communities around airports nationwide have experienced similar results,” the Senators wrote. “We are working on legislative strategies… to ensure that the FAA gives additional consideration to cumulative noise impacts and works more cooperatively with local communities on flight path issues.”

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