Regulatory Brief -- FAA/EPA Stakeholder Meetings on Air Quality

Regulatory Brief

FAA/EPA Stakeholder Meetings on Air Quality

The issue:

The Environmental Protection Agency and the Federal Aviation Administration have signed a memorandum of agreement under pressure from the White House to work together toward significant reductions in the emission of ozone precursor gasses from aviation-related sources. A process has been established that involves state and federal environmental officials, federal aviation officials, and industry representatives in the study and inventory of aviation-related gaseous and particulate emissions. Also included in the process is the identification and development of mitigation and compliance strategies for aviation emissions.

The importance to our members:

While the initial emphasis of this effort is focused largely on air carrier activity at the major hub airports, general aviation and military emissions are being examined, inventoried, and could be subject to environmental regulation. The states do not have the authority to regulate aircraft emissions directly, however, they do have the authority to reduce emissions by potentially imposing fees designed to restrict operations, or other methods designed to achieve their federally mandated air quality standards. At a minimum, the outcomes of this process could equate to significant inconvenience to general aviation operations. At worst, the outcome could be a significant increase in cost or the imposition of measures designed to reduce operations.

Significant provisions:

The states are finding it impossible to meet the federally mandated air quality standards under the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 through current mitigation strategies, and stricter standards are soon to be implemented after the turn of the century. As more and more industries, businesses and other human activities have been targeted for environmental regulation, the aviation industry has become a proportionately larger and larger source category for airborne emissions. In some of the air quality non-attainment areas, it is estimated that aviation-related activity accounts for as much as 15 percent of the ozone precursor gaseous emissions. This places aviation activity in the position of being the low hanging fruit for future single-source emissions reductions. With the threat of losing all federal highway funds looming for continued non-attainment of the air quality standards, the states are anxious to find any means possible for rapid and significant emissions reductions.

A baseline study is being conducted in 1999 to establish the actual level of emissions from all sources related to airports including aircraft, ground service equipment, airport access vehicles, and fixed sources. Emissions constituents to be studied include carbon monoxide, oxides of nitrogen, volatile organic compounds, particulate matter, and others. There is some concern that lead may be added to the list. Initial focus is on emissions from aircraft with secondary efforts focussing on ground mobile and stationary sources. In effect however, the airport is being examined as an emissions bubble in which all sources could be subject to reduction strategies. The baseline study will examine different types of airports representing large air carrier hubs, medium mixed traffic airports, military facilities, and small general aviation airports. The study will serve as the guideline for the development of regulation and other mitigation strategies.

AOPA position:

AOPA is deeply concerned with the new focus on aviation as a single source category of emissions and with the pressure that is being exerted on the EPA and FAA by the state air quality offices. Our primary focus in the Stakeholder Process is to ensure that general aviation is fairly evaluated in the baseline study. This involves insuring that information used in the study is accurate and that projections of future activity are not exaggerated particularly by other aviation industry segments looking to deflect some of the attention and focus away from themselves.

Status:

The FAA/EPA Stakeholder Process is in its infancy but the states and other environmental interests are exerting tremendous pressure to keep the process on a fast track. AOPA is attending meetings and participating in conference calls almost daily on this issue and is working closely with some of the aviation trade associations. The baseline emissions study is slated to be completed later this year. Discussions on mitigation strategies and implementation will likely follow the completion of the study.