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Compensation order over Yokota base noise upheld, damages raised

  • June 6, 2019
  • , Kyodo News , 7:08 p.m.
  • English Press

A high court upheld Thursday a lower court ruling ordering the Japanese government to pay damages over aircraft noise to residents living in the vicinity of Yokota Air Base in the suburbs of Tokyo, while again dismissing a request to halt some flights.

 

The Tokyo High Court ordered the government to pay 760 million yen ($7.0 million) for past noise in the suit filed by some 1,000 residents living near the U.S. military base, which is shared with Japan’s Air Self-Defense Force. The damages were increased from 610 million yen set by the lower court in October 2017 to cover the period through the conclusion of the high court hearing.

 

In handing down the ruling, Presiding Judge Shigeru Nakanishi said, “The noise has led to emotional distress by disrupting daily life and causing discomfort, and has exceeded a tolerable level.”

 

The ruling dismissed the plaintiff’s calls for a halt to nighttime and early morning flights by U.S. and SDF aircraft, upholding the lower court decision.

 

The compensation package covers plaintiffs living in areas that experience a level of 75 or higher on the Weighted Equivalent Continuous Perceived Noise Level index.

 

Yasuo Sekijima, the lawyer for the plaintiffs, indicated they would appeal the verdict, saying, “The lower court ruling was upheld unquestioningly. It denies future compensation and looks away from the fact that the unlawful conditions persist.”

 

In October 2017, the Tachikawa branch of the Tokyo District Court pointed out that operation of military aircraft is in the service of the public, but that it is unfair to require the plaintiffs to endure the noise.

 

The district court also acknowledged that government countermeasures including subsidies for soundproofing of residential buildings had only “limited effect” and the government is not contributing enough to solve the issue fundamentally.

 

There has been legal wrangling over military aircraft noise in Japan for decades.

 

The lower court ruling was in line with a Supreme Court decision in 2016 on noise pollution at the Atsugi air base near Tokyo. The top court decided that a request to suspend U.S. military flights cannot be ruled on in Japan and denied future compensation.

 

The Yokota base, located about 40 kilometers west of the center of the capital, has a 3,000-meter runway and also hosts Japan’s Air Defense Command Headquarters, which is in charge of missile defense operations. U.S. military Osprey aircraft were deployed to the base last October.

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