NAHA, OKINAWA PREF. – The focus of the lawsuit was whether the court would approve the right of about 620 plaintiffs living around Nago, the envisioned relocation site of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, to express opinions about the plan in the environmental assessment procedure.
The plaintiffs argued that they were deprived of their right to express opinions because the state failed to release in a timely manner crucial information about the plan, thus breaching the environmental impact assessment law. They also sought ¥10,000 per person in compensation for the breach of law.
Rejecting their claims, presiding Judge Ryosuke Sakai said the residents were not specifically guaranteed the right to statements of opinion.
According to the lawsuit, the state failed to report in the first phase of the assessment procedures key details of the relocation plan, including how sand for land reclamation would be procured and that U.S. military planes would fly over residential areas.
It reported such details too late for residents to express opinions, the plaintiffs argued.
They also said the state did not report the expected deployment of the U.S. MV-22 Osprey transport aircraft to Futenma.
Judge Sakai said the deployment had been raised during Japan-U.S. negotiations from around 1996, thus ahead of the start of the assessment procedures.
On the ruling, the Okinawa Defense Bureau said the court had accepted the government’s argument and the bureau will try to replace Futenma at an early date.
Conservation groups are against building the airstrip in the Henoko district of Nago to replace the Futenma base, which is in the crowded residential district of Ginowan, due to worries the plan would negatively impact dugong and other rare creatures inhabiting the less-populated area.