In comments filed with the FAA today, the residents, some of whom live and own property near the airport, said the assessment has been corrupted by the selection of a contractor with a direct financial interest in the proposed airport expansion.
“The contractor selected to prepare the assessment is tainted by a financial interest in the airport’s expansion, which is the subject of the assessment,” said attorney Peter Steenland of the Sidley, Austin LLP firm in Washington, D.C., who along with Atlanta attorney Charles McKnight Jr. of the firm of Nations, Toman & McKnight, LLP, represents the landowners opposing the project.
“They cannot be expected to prepare an objective analysis of this project, which could have a significant impact on the environment and potentially transform the region with a major commercial airport,” Steenland said.
Steenland noted that “this is only the latest case of public officials using their influence and power to try to force residents into accepting a major project that could fundamentally change the quality of life in Paulding County.”
According to the comments filed today, the contractor, Michael Baker Inc., and its subsidiary, the LPA Group, have been consultants for the Paulding Airport Authority for more than a decade, and continue to provide services today. In addition, the current airport director, Blake Swafford, is a former LPA employee. Swafford is one of the chief proponents of the proposed airport expansion.
“A contractor selected to conduct the FAA’s environmental assessment must be objective,” McKnight said, “but he’s irrevocably tainted here.”
Swafford, however, told an Atlanta TV station he had not worked for the company for 14 years. He also told the station he would not participate in the assessment.
The residents called on the FAA to begin the assessment anew with an independent contractor that has no bias or financial ties to the airport or the investors behind the proposed expansion.