Editor's Note

The Jury is Still Out ... But Not for Long

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been gathering data since 2004 and is undergoing rulemaking for deicing operations called “An Effluent Limitation Guideline.” In early March, they met with several special interest groups, two of which include Airports Council International (ACI) and the Air Transport Association (ATA), who are taking the lead in this process. According to Jessica Steinhilber, director, environmental affairs at ACI-NA, this is the first time the EPA has done a survey specific to deicing, asking airports and airlines a wide range of questions such as how much deicing fluid is being used and what types of glycol recovery are installed. The ultimate and preferred results — to control the runoff of aircraft and airport deicing activities. “They are looking at requiring a percent capture for aircraft deicing applications,” Steinhilber says.

As with all rulemakings, ATA and ACI are working closely with the EPA to ensure reasonable regulations are applied. “The main concern [ATA and ACI] have is that the EPA is trying to come up with a standard national rule,” says Tim Pohle, managing director of US environmental affairs and assistant general counsel at ATA. “The EPA is used to applying regulations to industries such as steel or chemical production where there is a fairly typical or standard configuration at their plants and [the EPA] can essentially get to an ‘end of pipe’ standard,” he says. With this in mind, it has been extremely important for ATA and ACI to educate the EPA about the tremendous diversity across the industry in terms of the role different airports play such as whether they are a large or small hub, the geographic and climatic setting, which can greatly affect the way deicing operations are conducted, and the fact that carrier operations vary significantly from one airport to the next. “Due to all of these factors, we are trying to make the EPA understand that it is a very difficult industry to try to impose a single national standard,” Pohle says. “I think the most important single factor is that the EPA recognizes that deicing is a safety activity and we need to deice according to safety standards and requirements and we will not compromise losing those.”

The EPA’s position is that once the deicing fluid has been sprayed, they want to ensure the safety standards are being met. However, the costs associated with controlling deicing fluid can significantly impact the level of operations … or whether operations will even occur at certain airports. “The need to be aware that their regulations could have that type of impact and can certainly affect the airlines and the ground handling companies,” Pohle says. Later this fall, a proposed rule will be put on the table and is then expected to be finalized in December 2009.

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