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Guard Defends F-35 In Advance Of New Environmental Impact Statement

The Vermont National Guard says a new draft report on the environmental impact of the F35A will likely be released Friday. 

The Air Force is considering basing the jet fighter at the Air Guard facility in South Burlington, but the report may fuel more opposition to the idea.

Speaking at a hastily called news conference Wednesday afternoon, Vermont Adjutant General Steven Cray said the new draft will be based on 2010 census data.   The previous environmental impact statement incorporated census figures from 2000.

Cray says he hasn’t seen the new draft, but because of the updated population numbers, the report is likely to show more people will be affected by the F-35’s noise.  He says he doesn’t expect anything in the new document will change his views on bringing the plane to Vermont. 

“I think it’s reasonable to deduce there is more population in the surrounding communities," Cray said.  "As far as changing my opinion on basing the F-35 here in Vermont, absolutely not.  It’s a 30 to 40 year investment in Vermont and it ensures the viability of not only the Air National Guard but a vital part of our nation’s security.”

One concern raised about the F-35 is the use of the plane’s afterburners when taking off, which would greatly increase noise levels.  Cray continues to believe that it won’t be necessary to use afterburners on the missions flown out of Burlington.

“Having talked to the engineers at Lockheed-Martin who have built the aircraft along with the test pilots who are currently flying the F-35, it will take off without using the after burner to accomplish the training missions that we anticipate being able to do,” he said.

Cray says the new impact statement will also include the Air Force’s response to public comments made following the release of an earlier draft.

After the study’s release there will be a 45 day public comment period.

The Air Force is expected to make a final decision this fall on where to base the F-35s.  If Burlington is chosen, Cray says the planes would not be arriving for another 8 years.

Steve has been with VPR since 1994, first serving as host of VPR’s public affairs program and then as a reporter, based in Central Vermont. Many VPR listeners recognize Steve for his special reports from Iran, providing a glimpse of this country that is usually hidden from the rest of the world. Prior to working with VPR, Steve served as program director for WNCS for 17 years, and also worked as news director for WCVR in Randolph. A graduate of Northern Arizona University, Steve also worked for stations in Phoenix and Tucson before moving to Vermont in 1972. Steve has been honored multiple times with national and regional Edward R. Murrow Awards for his VPR reporting, including a 2011 win for best documentary for his report, Afghanistan's Other War.
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