LOS ANGELES, CA — Today Rep. Henry A. Waxman sent a letter to Michael Huerta, Acting Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), to encourage expanded use of unleaded fuels to reduce toxic lead emissions from general aviation aircraft, particularly in airports with close proximity to residential areas. Although the FAA has committed to a replacement for leaded fuel by 2018, it may take 11 years or more to fully phase in a new fuel.
“General aviation fuel now accounts for half of the lead emissions in the United States,” said Rep. Waxman. “It is a major concern for residents living near the Santa Monica Airport. The FAA says it has a plan for a new fuel to be available in a decade or so, but there are unleaded alternatives available now for the vast majority of small aircraft. The FAA needs to do more to promote their use. We need to get the lead out today.”
The full text of the letter is below and is also available online here.
October 23, 2012
Mr. Michael P. Huerta
Federal Aviation Administration
800 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20591
Dear Acting Administrator Huerta:
I am writing to urge the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to accelerate efforts to reduce lead emissions from general aviation by taking immediate steps to expand the use of currently available unleaded fuels, which can be used safely and cost-effectively by the vast majority of general aviation aircraft with piston engines.
For too long general aviation gasoline, also known as “AvGas,” has been exempt from the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) rules that eliminated lead from automotive fuel to protect public health and the environment. Leaded fuel from general aviation now accounts for half of all lead air emissions in the United States. The devastating health effects of lead are well documented. Lead is a potent neurotoxin that has especially debilitating effects on children, damaging the brain and nervous system and impairing development. According to the Centers for Disease Control, there is no identified level of lead exposure without harmful effects and the effects appear to be irreversible.
Lead emissions from general aviation are a particular concern at airports located in close proximity to residential areas. At Santa Monica Airport (SMO), a general aviation facility located in the congressional district I represent, the runway sits just 250 feet from neighboring homes. In 2010, a General Aviation Airport Air Monitoring Study by the South Coast Air Quality Management District recorded significantly elevated lead concentrations on the east end of the SMO tarmac where planes taxi and idle before take-off. Frequent touch-and-go flights by piston aircraft can also result in pollution concentrations in areas surrounding an airport.
The FAA’s plans with regard to addressing the use of leaded fuel for general aviation are described in the Unleaded Avgas Transition Aviation Rulemaking Committee report released in February 2012. This report outlines steps to identify, test, and certify an unleaded “drop-in” replacement fuel by 2018, but it does not identify any efforts to reduce the use of leaded fuel before such a replacement fuel becomes available, even though, according to the report, it may be 11 years or more before the new fuel will be phased in.