Error in F-35 Report Inflames Basing Debate
The U.S. Air Force says information regarding support for basing the new F-35 fighter jet at the Burlington International Airport was overstated in the just released revised Environmental Impact Statement. But supporters say the corrected numbers are still skewed because officials are counting a petition with more than 10,000 signatures as only one comment.
In the revised Environmental Impact Statement, the Air Force received 913 public comments on a proposal to base up to 24 F-35 fighter jets at the Burlington International Airport National Guard base. It indicated 80 percent were in support and 20 percent opposed. Air Force officials now say that is wrong and the comments actually ran 65 percent against and 35 percent in favor. U.S. Air Force F-35A Operational Basing Environmental Impact Statement Project Manager Nicholas Germanos says the correction was inadvertently omitted from the revised report.
Greater Burlington Industrial Corporation President Frank Cioffi supports basing the jet in Burlington. He disputes the revised data, noting a petition with more than 10,000 signatures was counted as one comment. Cioffi says if the Air Force had counted those signatures individually, the ratio of support would be as high as 95 percent.
Green Ribbons for the F-35s distributes green ribbons to tie in front of supporters’ homes. Group creator Nicole Citro says her interaction with the community clearly shows a high level of support for the jet.
The Air Force’s Nicholas Germanos explains that the petition was not entirely on topic.
But Frank Cioffi says the petition did address EIS issues.
Retired Air Force Colonel Roseanne Greco, a South Burlington City Councilor, opposes siting the new jet at the airport. The error leaves her questioning the overall validity of the report.
Vermont National Guard Assistant Adjutant General for air Brigadier General Dick Harris says the basing decision is a transparent and deliberate process, and is pleased officials are correcting the error. He says the public comment report is just one facet to consider as officials near a basing decision.
The public comment period on the revised EIS will end on July 17th
The final EIS is expected to be issued in late October.