Court hears Kadena aircraft noise appeal
NAHA — Kadena Air Base aircraft noise is a breach of a peaceful living environment, lawyers for residents of communities surrounding the U.S. installation argued Tuesday in the Fukuoka High Court’s Naha branch.
During the third oral argument in the appellate court, lawyer Osamu Nakahara condemned a lower court ruling that the aircraft noise was within “tolerable levels” for some of the residents, eliminating them from the compensation awarded others.
A total of 5,542 residents sued the Japanese government in March 2000, seeking a 7 p.m.-7 a.m. ban on aircraft operations and demanding 24 billion yen (about $54.3 million) in compensation for physical and mental damages they contended stemmed from the noise.
In February 2005, Naha District Court ordered the Japanese government to pay 2.8 billion yen compensation (about $24 million) to 3,881 residents.
But the court dismissed claims from about 1,700 residents, ruling that their neighborhood noise levels were within permissible limits. The current hearings are based on the 1,700 residents’ appeal.
Nakahara said the original lower court decision set tolerable limits too high, ignoring Japan’s environmental-quality standards.
“The original decision is irrational, running counter to the trend of the recent court decisions,” he said, urging the appellate court to reverse the lower court ruling.
Another lawyer, Yukari Tamura, told the three-judge panel the plaintiffs “have been exposed to intolerable noise” for generations. “What they are seeking is a peaceful environment, a minimum and natural wish as a human being.”
Meanwhile, Japanese government lawyers argued that the areas and number of days the aircraft noise level exceeded environmental standards were far fewer than the residents claim.
The U.S. and Japanese governments have adopted special noise abatement measures including soundproofing homes near Kadena Air Base and Marine Corps Air Station Futenma.
Kadena officials said in September that the Air Force was well aware of the communities’ concerns and that flight operations are “done with the greatest care and consideration.” A senior Air Force official said the air base has conducted about 2,000 fewer departures and takeoffs compared with similar F-15 bases in the United States.
The next hearing is scheduled for January 23.
Stripes reporter Megan McCloskey contributed to this story.