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EPA Seeks Comments Regarding Lead Emissions Petition

November 15, 2007 — The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has published a notice in the Federal Register seeking comments on a petition from the environmental group, Friends of the Earth, to limit lead emissions from piston general aviation aircraft that use 100LL fuel. EAA, a leader in alternative fuel research since 1964, does not see this as an immediate threat to the supply and availability of 100LL, but other economic pressures could affect its availability.

The petition seeks one of two outcomes: 1) Have the EPA make a finding that lead emissions from GA aircraft endanger public health and welfare and issue a proposed emissions standard for lead from GA aircraft under the Clean Air Act; or 2) Have the EPA administrator order a study on the health and environmental impacts of GA aircraft lead emissions and report on the study's findings.

In 2005 EPA stated there is insufficient information to determine that aircraft lead emissions endanger public health and welfare. The agency also stressed that because a suitable, safe, unleaded aviation fuel has not been developed, regulating leaded aviation fuel would ground all general aviation aircraft, resulting in severe economic repercussions to GA businesses and operators.

Earl Lawrence, EAA vice president of industry and regulatory affairs and Secretary of the ASTM International Aviation Gasoline Committee, met earlier this month with EPA officials. "The EPA has a lot of work to do before they would take any action on removing the lead in 100LL," he said. "They are in the process of setting the new airborne lead standard for the U.S. That will most likely not be done until early 2009."

Also discussed were some spot shortages of 100LL this past summer, reportedly a result of distribution and refinery issues. Special work rules for the handling of lead have been cited as one of the distribution hurdles for leaded fuel. In addition, leaded fuel requires special containers such as segregated rail cars, to transport it--containers that cannot be used for other fuels. These and other economic factors may ultimately affect the future feasibility of leaded aviation fuel.

EAA will remain in its leadership role as crucial decisions are made regarding aviation fuels.

"EAA's number one priority is to ensure that a reasonably affordable supply of fuel is available to aircraft owners," Lawrence said.

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