NAHA, OKINAWA PREF. – The Fukuoka High Court on Tuesday turned down an appeal by local residents who wanted to overturn a lower court ruling that rejected their lawsuit demanding the central government conduct another environmental impact assessment of the Futenma base relocation in Okinawa Prefecture.
A three-judge panel at the high court’s Naha branch led by Judge Hidekazu Imaizumi upheld last year’s ruling by the Naha District Court that also rejected the plaintiffs’ demand for ¥10,000 in damages per plaintiff.
The focus of the lawsuit was whether local residents had a right to express their opinion during the environmental impact assessment for the planned relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps’ Air Station Futenma from the city of Ginowan to the city of Nago.
About 620 plaintiffs living in the Henoko district of Nago maintained their right to express their views about the relocation plan had been stymied by the central government as it did not release crucial information about the plan in a timely manner, thus breaching the environmental impact assessment law.
The plaintiffs claimed they were stripped of their right to express their opinions because the central government hid key information concerning the environmental assessment.
On Feb. 20, 2013, the Naha District Court ruled that the environmental assessment process is intended simply to collect information from residents, rejecting the plaintiffs’ claim that the residents have the right to express their opinions.
During the high court hearing, the plaintiffs argued that the expression of their opinions is protected by law.
They said the central government failed to report in the first phase of the assessment procedure key details of the relocation plan, including how sand for land reclamation will be procured and that U.S. military planes would fly over residential areas.
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