EPA Begins Rulemaking Process to Address Lead in Aviation Gasoline

On April 28, 2010, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) published an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“ANPR”) regarding lead emissions from piston-engine aircraft using leaded aviation gasoline. 75 Fed. Reg. 22,440 (Apr. 28, 2010). At this point, EPA is not proposing to regulate the use of leaded fuel, but is seeking comment on the data available for evaluating lead emissions, ambient concentrations, and potential exposure to lead from the use of leaded aviation gasoline. The ANPR also requests comment on approaches for phasing-down or eliminating leaded aviation gasoline. EPA will accept public comment on the ANPR through June 28, 2010.

Leaded aviation gasoline is used in general aviation aircraft with piston engines, which are typically used for instructional flying, air taxi activities, and personal transportation at around 20,000 airports in the United States. EPA estimates that the use of leaded aviation gasoline is responsible for approximately one-half of the nation’s air emissions of lead.

EPA is initiating the rulemaking in response to a petition submitted by Friends of the Earth in October 2006. The petition requested that EPA either (1) find that lead emissions from general aviation aircraft endanger public health and welfare and issue a proposed emissions standard, or (2) commence a study of the health and environmental impacts of lead emissions from general aviation aircraft if the Agency does not have sufficient information to make an endangerment finding.

After evaluating the comments received in response to the ANPR, EPA will determine whether emissions from aircraft using leaded aviation gasoline cause or contribute to air pollution which may be reasonably anticipated to endanger public health or welfare. If EPA makes an endangerment finding, the Agency has asserted that it would be required to establish an emissions standard for lead from piston-engine aircraft unless, in consultation with the Federal Aviation Administration, the proposed standard would increase noise and adversely affect safety.

The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), the Experimental Aviation Association (EAA), the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA), the National Air Transportation Association (NATA), and the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) issued a joint statement urging the industry to comment on the ANPR. The industry groups cited “the technical complexity and safety implications of removing lead from aviation gasoline since there is not a high-octane replacement unleaded avgas available today that meets the requirements of the entire [general aviation] fleet.”