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Friday, July 18, 2008

Redress again doled out over Yokota base noise

Staff writer

The Tokyo High Court ordered the government Thursday to pay about ¥194 million in compensation to 210 people who suffered from noise pollution generated at the U.S. Yokota Air Base in western Tokyo.

The 210 were part of a group of 325 who sued because of the noise being generated by aircraft at the base. They originally demanded ¥2.5 million each from the state, suspension of night flights and advance payment for future disruptions.

The others were denied payment on the basis of noise-level measurements.

Judge Hidetoshi Somiya acknowledged that noise levels in some parts of Yokota are "beyond the tolerable limit." Since the government has an obligation to protect the people from such torment, it is "unjust for the defendant to assert mitigation and (not pay) compensation," the judge said.

Despite awarding compensation, however, the court rejected plaintiffs' requests for a night flight suspension and advance payment of damages.

In 2003, the Tokyo District Court ordered the government pay some ¥160 million to 242 of the plaintiffs but turned down pleas for suspension of night and early-morning flights near Yokota and prepayment for future disturbances.

Both the state and the plaintiffs appealed the district court decision.

Thursday's high court ruling added overdue payments to the redress but reduced the number of eligible plaintiffs based on measurements of noise disruption under the Weighted Equivalent Continuous Perceived Noise Level scheme, an international standard.

As for suspending flights, the court said the operations at the U.S. base are not under the Japanese government's jurisdiction.

"This is a very disappointing ruling," the plaintiffs' lawyer Tomokatsu Maeda told reporters. Maeda hinted that the plaintiffs might appeal, saying they "will fight the battle until a proper verdict is handed down."

The focus of the trial, which was originally filed in 1994, was on whether the court would restrict night flights and whether it would expand compensation to a wider number of the plaintiffs.

In countering the demands of the plaintiffs, lawyers for the state argued that noise levels were within tolerable limits and the government did not have the authority to override U.S. actions at the base.

Six rulings have been finalized in similar suits connected with aircraft noise at Yokota. All verdicts granted compensation to the plaintiffs, but requests for suspension of nighttime and early-morning flights were turned down.

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The Japan Times

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