Arnold Gold / Hearst Connecticut Media
Tweed New Haven Airport (Arnold Gold / Hearst Connecticut Media)

HARTFORD, CT—Attorney General William Tong is looking to appeal a July federal court ruling that gave Tweed-New Haven Airport a path to expand its runway.

In a filing with the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday, Tong asks whether the Tweed governing body, which was created by the state, can sue the state. He also questions whether the Federal Aviation Administration regulations preempt state law.

Tong’s office announced the filing in a short statement midday Friday, just a few hours before the state’s window to appeal the July ruling expired.

Tweed has been seeking an expansion of the runway at the airport in an effort to beef up the flight schedule. The short runway length limits the size of the aircraft that can use it, and officials have said a more prominent airport in Southern Connecticut would boost economic development throughout the area.

Gov. Ned Lamont’s CT2030 transportation plan calls for a study on increasing air travel in the shoreline area, but doesn’t say whether the governor prefers Tweed or Sikorsky in Bridgeport for an expansion.

“We are disappointed in the Attorney General’s decision to file a petition for certiorari in the Supreme Court and believe the circuit court’s unanimous decision in our favor was correct and should have ended this litigation. We look forward to a prompt resolution of the case in the Supreme Court so that we can proceed with our plans to extend the length of our runway and foster the tremendous economic growth that will come from a more vibrant airport in southern Connecticut,” Tweed Executive Director Sean Scanlon said in a statement.

Scanlon, a state representative from Guilford, became the airport’s director in October, taking over for interim director and Tweed board member Matthew Hoey, the first selectman of Guilford.

A bill passed by the General Assembly in 2009 limits the length of the runway to 5,600 feet, but the appeals court ruling in July said the jurisdiction on runway length lies with the Federal Aviation Administration, not the state.

The Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruling also concluded that Tweed did have standing to sue the state.

New Haven Mayor-elect Justin Elicker, who takes office on Jan. 1, said Tong’s appeal is “not anti-airport” and will allow the city to continue meeting with nearby residents who have consistently complained about noise and traffic issues in their neighborhood.

“I acknowledge Attorney General Tong’s position and interest in protecting the State by questioning the legal standing of Tweed to sue the State and the larger ramifications of letting the lower court decision stand. The legal nuances of Attorney General Tong’s appeal should be recognized as complex and not anti-airport,” Elicker said in a statement. “I have spoken with Attorney General Tong and expressed the importance of Tweed’s potential as a driver in our regional economy.”

The city owns the airport, which straddles the New Haven and East Haven city lines.

“Though we need to support meaningful economic development across the Elm City, the appeal should also be viewed as an opportunity for us to have more time to engage the community in a meaningful dialogue about the future of Tweed New Haven Airport and potentially address some of the logistical, financial and neighborhood concerns about the runway extension,” Elicker said.

Outgoing Mayor Toni N. Harp was a vocal proponent of lengthening the runway. She celebrated the July court ruling in a press conference at the airport, where she said the expansion was overdue because of the potential to reach more than 1 million residents in the Tweed market.

The state’s appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court can be found here. In the appeal, the state says both questions it’s raising – whether a political subdivision of a state can sue its creator, and whether the Federal Aviation Act preempts state laws – have larger ramifications.

“This case presents the Court with the opportunity to resolve two issues of exceptional national importance,” the appeal says.

The appeal is a writ of certiorari, which gives the U.S. Supreme Court discretion on whether or not to consider the appeal, said Elizabeth Benton, the spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office.

The questions to the Supreme Court are: “Does a political subdivision of a State have standing to sue its creator State under the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution?” and “Does the Federal Aviation Act preempt a state law limiting the length of an airport runway, thereby depriving a State from determining the size and nature of a local airport?”

The U.S. Supreme Court could decide not to hear the case.