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Senate Asks FAA, EPA to 'Go Slow' in Avgas Lead Elimination

September 28, 2011More than one-quarter of the U.S. Senate signed a letter to the administrators of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) asking those agencies to delay using any regulatory process to eliminate lead in aviation fuels until a suitable replacement can be found.

A bipartisan group of 27 senators co-signed the letter, led by Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK) and Sen. John Thune (R-SD). They stressed the importance of working with the GA community and the Congressional General Aviation Caucus to ensure that the nation’s general aviation system is not crippled by elimination of 100 low-lead fuel without a widely available and affordable replacement that can be distributed nationwide.

EAA, which has been involved in aviation fuel research for more than 30 years, is currently a member of the FAA’s Unleaded Avgas Transition ARC, which is working to identify the process necessary to develop, test, and approve a safe, affordable alternative to leaded avgas.

“We appreciate the congressional support for maintaining the supply of high-octane aviation gasoline while the important and complex work is done to find an unleaded alternative,” said Doug Macnair, EAA’s vice president of government relations. “Eliminating 100 low-lead without a suitable replacement would endanger aviation safety and create enormous economic burdens on regions and industries that rely upon aviation.”

The EPA, facing possible legal action by an environmental group, published an advance notice of proposed rulemaking on lead emissions from piston-aircraft engines in April 2010. The EPA granted an extension requested by EAA and other organizations in June 2010 and members of the Avgas Coalition including EAA filed extensive comments.

The EPA is not planning any immediate ban on leaded aviation gasoline and has publicly stated that it will not take precipitous action until a suitable replacement can be identified. At the same time, however, the agency is continuing to pressure the general aviation industry to work diligently and expeditiously toward a long-term solution.

After outlining the safety and economic threats posed by any premature elimination of leaded avgas, the senators concluded, “We urge you to consider these concerns before you move forward with any rulemaking that would stop the use of leaded avgas before the FAA has the opportunity to take appropriate measures needed to approve a new, safe, and affordable unleaded avgas that takes into account the safety of those aboard the affected aircraft.”

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