102 F.3d 1421 (7th Cir. 1996), 96-3418, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Ass'n v. Hinson

Docket Nº:96-3418, 96-3439.
Citation:102 F.3d 1421
Party Name:AIRCRAFT OWNERS AND PILOTS ASSOCIATION, Rufus A. Hunt, Donald K. Irmiger III, et al., Plaintiffs-Appellants, and State of Illinois, by the Illinois Department of Transportation, Intervenor/Plaintiff-Appellant, v. David R. HINSON, in his capacity as Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration, Federal Aviation Administration, Chicago Park D
Case Date:November 21, 1996
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
 
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102 F.3d 1421 (7th Cir. 1996)

AIRCRAFT OWNERS AND PILOTS ASSOCIATION, Rufus A. Hunt,

Donald K. Irmiger III, et al., Plaintiffs-Appellants,

and

State of Illinois, by the Illinois Department of

Transportation, Intervenor/Plaintiff-Appellant,

v.

David R. HINSON, in his capacity as Administrator of the

Federal Aviation Administration, Federal Aviation

Administration, Chicago Park District,

and City of Chicago,

Defendants-Appellees.

Nos. 96-3418, 96-3439.

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit.

November 21, 1996

Argued Nov. 1, 1996.

*.

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George Bullwinkel, Margaret M. Crosby, John T. Allen, Jr., Bullwinkel Partners; Richard J. Phelan (argued), Bradley S. Block, Kevin J. Clancy, Francis A. Citera, and Dianne L. Hicklen, Foley & Lardner, Chicago, IL, for Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, Rufus A. Hunt, Donald K. Irmiger, III, Sunstone Financial Group, Unison Industries, L.P., Steven G. Whitney, Coleman Holt and Scott Gallagher.

David R. Hinson, Federal Aviation Administration; Peter A. Appel, Department of Justice, Land & Natural Resources Division, Washington, DC, Thomas P. Walsh (argued), Anthony J. Masciopinto, Office of the United States Attorney, Civil Division, Chicago, IL, for David R. Hinson and Federal Aviation Administration.

Michael J. Hayes (argued), John T. Roache, Jr., Gardner, Carton & Douglas; and Marguerite M. Tompkins, Chicago Park

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District, Law Department, Chicago, IL, for Chicago Park District.

Frank Cicero, Jr., Stephen R. Patton, Jeffrey L. Willian, Anne J. McClain, Timothy A. Duffy, Wendy L. Bloom, Kirkland & Ellis; Andrew S. Mine, Susan S. Sher, Benna R. Solomon (argued), Office of the Corporation Counsel, Appeals Division, Laure A. Mullaney, Office of the Corporation Counsel, Litigation Division, Michael A. Forti, City of Chicago, Department of Law, Gail A. Niemann, Office of the Corporation Counsel, Law Department, and Marguerite M. Tompkins, Chicago Park District, Law Department, Chicago, IL, for City of Chicago.

Arthur J. Howe, Steven A. Weiss, Schopf & Weiss; and Eleanor K. Roemer, Lake Michigan Federation, Chicago, IL, for Friends of the Parks, Lake Michigan Federation, and Openlands Project.

Michael L. Shakman, Barry A. Miller, Edward W. Feldman, Diane F. Klotnia, and Thomas M. Staunton (on the brief), Miller Shakman Hamilton Kurtzon & Schlifke, Chicago, IL, for State of Illinois.

Before CUMMINGS, BAUER and EASTERBROOK, Circuit Judges.

CUMMINGS, Circuit Judge.

Plaintiff Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association ("Association") and others 1 sued David R. Hinson as Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Chicago Park District and the City of Chicago to enjoin the closing of Meigs Field airport, which was scheduled to take place at 10 p.m. on September 30, 1996, when the City's 50-year lease with the Chicago Park District for the Meigs Field site expired. Plaintiffs are users of Meigs Field, taxpayers and persons affected by additional noise and pollution allegedly caused by diverting flights from Meigs Field to Midway Airport in Chicago. The State of Illinois was permitted to intervene as a party plaintiff. Plaintiffs sought an injunction against the closing of Meigs Field and attendant relief. On October 1 the district court denied a preliminary injunction, resulting in this appeal.

Meigs Field is located on Northerly Island. The north end of the island is occupied by the Adler Planetarium and the airport runs from approximately the middle of the island to the south end. From 1920 to 1922 the island was built upon submerged lands in Lake Michigan east of Grant Park in Chicago. Illinois transferred title to the submerged lands to Chicago's City Park Commissioners in 1903 "for public purposes," to be maintained and controlled "in the manner provided by law for the government and maintenance of other parks * * * under its control". Title to the island was transferred to the Chicago Park District upon its organization in 1933.

In 1935 Illinois enacted statutes permitting the Park District to lease Northerly Island to the City of Chicago for airport purposes and permitting the City of Chicago to lease the island from the Park District for those purposes. Those statutes do not, by their terms, obligate the City or Park District to operate an airport. In 1946 the City and the Park District entered into a 50-year lease to permit the city to construct and operate an airport, now known as Meigs Field, on Northerly Island. It was then contemplated that the island would have to be expanded through additional landfill, and therefore in 1946 the City and the Park District sought permits to construct the landfill for an airport. The Illinois Department of Public Works issued a permit in March 1946 approving the expansion of Northerly Island for airport purposes, and in 1947 the United States War Department issued a permit to do the necessary work for such purposes. However, the permits do not obligate the City or Park District to operate an airport. Thereafter the City constructed additions to Northerly Island and built the Meigs Field airport, which opened in 1948 and operated until September 30, 1996. Prior to its closure, Meigs Field was accommodating approximately 51,000 operations and transporting 81,000 passengers yearly.

This lawsuit was filed on September 11, 1996, after the City of Chicago Council voted to change Northerly Island zoning to permit the construction of a park. This was 19 days prior to the expiration of the lease from

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Chicago to the Park District. On September 12, the State of Illinois was granted leave to intervene in order to compel the Federal Aviation Administration ("FAA") to prepare an Environmental Assessment ("EA") or Environmental Impact Statement ("EIS") as to the closure of Meigs Field pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act ("NEPA"), 42 U.S.C. § 4321 et seq. In the past, the FAA opposed the closing of Meigs Field. However, beginning in 1996 it withdrew its opposition and, as the district court stated, took "the position that it has no power to force the city to continue to operate because the [owner] Park District will not renew the lease." Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association v. Hinson, Order of the District Court at 15 (N.D.Ill. Oct. 1, 1996) [hereinafter District Court Opinion ]. The district court concluded that the FAA's decision not to compel the City to operate the airport for the useful life of the improvements was not a "major Federal action" within the meaning of NEPA that would require an EIS pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 4332(2)(C). The court reasoned that the FAA had no discretion to exercise in connection with the closing of Meigs Field under the grant agreements it and the City had entered into in connection with certain capital improvements made to Meigs Field, which totaled just over $1 million. Even if the FAA had such discretion, the court concluded that the propriety of the FAA's decision to rely on a contractual remedy set forth in the grant agreements, rather than resorting to sanctions or threat of sanctions or a suit for specific performance or otherwise, was unreviewable under Heckler v. Chaney, 470...

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