April 3, 2013

Efforts to find a safe and cost-effective alternative to leaded aviation gasoline were bolstered by a March 27 U.S. District Court ruling that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should not be forced to rush the issuance of its report on the public health effects of lead emissions from general aviation aircraft.

The ruling came in response to a March 2012 lawsuit filed by environmental group Friends of the Earth (FOE) that sought to force the EPA to issue an accelerated endangerment finding on GA emissions. The legal action followed a 2006 petition by the group that sought to force the agency to release those findings before their planned publication during the second half of 2015.

In its lawsuit, FOE claimed the 2015 timeframe “constitute[d] the unreasonable delay by the agency in performing its statutory duty” under the Clean Air Act (CAA). The EPA countered that it needs the extra time to gather evidence on the potential health effects from 100 low-lead avgas (100LL) and to propose new regulatory standards.

The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia largely sided with the EPA, ruling the agency’s issuance of an endangerment finding is not mandatory under the CAA and that the environmental group’s efforts to force the issue are out of the court’s jurisdiction. While FOE is likely to appeal that determination, the ruling provides additional breathing room for the collaborative effort underway between the EPA, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the general aviation industry to develop an unleaded alternative to traditional avgas.

NBAA is a member of a coalition of stakeholders committed to finding the best and safest alternative to 100LL to support the mobility and growth of general aviation, while also addressing concerns about safety, cost, availability and ease of production. “Our association remains committed to supporting the development and certification of a future avgas product that is as lead-free as technology will safely permit,” said Steve Brown, NBAA’s chief operating officer.

Brown noted that the EPA has taken significant action to address concerns with 100LL, including the issuance of new rules that increase the stringency of the national ambient air quality standards for lead by tenfold.

Additionally, the EPA has been an active participant in the FAA’s Unleaded Avgas Transition Aviation Rulemaking Committee, which in June 2012 issued its recommendations for implementing a “fuel development roadmap” to find a safe alternative to 100LL by 2018.

“Clearly, the EPA recognizes that progress is being made and that additional work with FAA is necessary,” Brown added.

More information about the industry’s efforts to find a safe alternative to 100LL may be found at NBAA’s Future of AvGas page.