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EPA Denies Petition Demanding Immediate Endangerment Finding for Leaded Avgas

Anticipated timing now in line with FAA/industry effort for unleaded fuels

January 29, 2015 – The Environmental Protection Agency this week denied another petition by environmental groups asking the agency to immediately determine that leaded avgas poses a threat to public health. In its response to Friends of the Earth, Physicians for Social Responsibility, and Oregon Aviation Watch, the EPA stated that it takes the issue of lead emissions from aircraft seriously and is continuing to investigate the extent to which those emissions may pose a hazard to public health. The agency has been monitoring emissions at 17 major GA airports and found levels to be below the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for lead at 15 of them. Further airport monitoring and analysis of the data is ongoing.

In its letter of denial, the EPA indicated that it was delaying the rulemaking activity toward a possible determination that aircraft lead emissions pose a hazard by two years. Under the new timetable the agency plans to issue a notice of proposed rulemaking in 2017 with a possible final determination some time in 2018. That timing coincides with the work schedule of the Piston Aviation Fuels Initiative (PAFI) that plans to have completed testing on one or more alternative unleaded aviation fuels by the end of 2018. 

The aviation and petroleum industries are working closely with the FAA to identify one or more replacements for leaded avgas through PAFI. EAA is an active member of this group, which has recently seen four candidate fuels selected for first-phase testing at the FAA Technical Center in New Jersey. The initial evaluation of fuel properties and material compatibility impact is expected to be completed by the end of this year. At that time, one or more of the fuels will continue into full-scale engine and aircraft testing designed to not only prove out the capability of the fuel, but also generate data necessary to facilitate transition of the existing fleet of aircraft and engines to any new fuel.

In its announcement on leaded avgas, the EPA also updated information on its airport monitoring program, which includes 17 airports where lead emissions were measured. The first findings were released in June 2013, but the updated report included data through calendar year 2013.

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