May 2, 2013

Less than one month after a U.S. District Court ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) must have sufficient time to prepare a report on the public health effects of lead emissions from general aviation (GA) aircraft, environmental groups have filed a petition seeking to overturn the decision and force the early release of that data.

The court’s March 27 decision came in response to a March 2012 lawsuit filed by Friends of the Earth (FOE), which sought the release of an accelerated endangerment finding on GA emissions, as requested by a 2006 petition by the group. The environmental group wanted to see the results of the report ahead of the agency’s planned release of those findings in the second half of 2015. The latest petition by FOE asserts that EPA already has sufficient evidence about the dangers of leaded fuels. Physicians for Social Responsibility and Oregon Aviation Watch joined with FOE in filing the petition to force release of the endangerment report.

“The only showing required for a finding of ‘endangerment’ is that lead emissions from aircraft engines fueled by leaded aviation gasoline cause, or contribute to, air pollution which may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare,” the petition states.

NBAA’s Chief Operating Officer Steve Brown noted that the environmental groups’ ultimate goal is to reverse the EPA’s decision to maintain the availability of leaded aviation gasoline (100LL) while pursuing a safe and responsible process in seeking unleaded fuel alternatives.

Brown also highlighted the collaborative effort between the EPA, the FAA and the GA industry to develop an unleaded alternative to traditional avgas. NBAA is among a diverse group of members of the Piston Aviation Fuels Initiative, which is working extensively to identify a drop-in replacement for 100LL, an option that would not require extensive modification of existing piston aircraft power plants in the fleet.

“The government and our industry are committed to finding a workable solution,” Brown said. “Congress has repeatedly funded research into alternative fuels, many of which are bio-based and would not contain lead. Also, they have specifically funded research into drop-in alternatives and new fuel blends, some of which are slated to enter the testing phase in June.”

Review the environmental groups’ petition. (PDF)