EPA sets new air quality standard

October 17, 2008

The Environmental Protection Agency announced on Wednesday October 15 that it had strengthened the national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) for lead for the first time since 1978. The EPA lowered the NAAQS for lead by a factor of 10 to .015 microns per cubic meter, setting in motion a multi-year effort requiring state and local governments to ensure they meet new standards by 2017.

AOPA testified at a public meeting in June held by the EPA to gather additional information on the impact of lowering the standard that had been in place for 30 years. Andy Cebula, AOPA's executive vice president of government affairs highlighted the valuable role general aviation plays in the US economy. Cebula also cautioned the EPA that any changes that would force an immediate change in the current composition of avgas would have a “direct impact on the safety of flight and the very future of light aircraft in this country.”

The EPA’s new standards begin a long-term process that requires individual state and local governments to evaluate areas that they feel may fall outside these new parameters. States will then need to establish a plan for monitoring these areas to determine actual ambient lead levels and then consider methods to bring them into attainment by 2017. “We’re watching this process very closely to detect any impact it may have on general aviation operations,” Cebula noted. AOPA will call upon its network of Regional Representatives, Airport Support Network Volunteers, members and staff to work closely with airport managers who may need to address specific community concerns regarding these new standards.

Lead is a naturally occurring metal found in the environment and a by-product of many manufacturing and mining processes. Sources of lead include lead smelting, glass and cement manufacturing, waste incinerators, and the combustion of fuels containing lead. Since the implementation of the Clean Air Act in 1978 and the phase out of leaded gasoline used in automobiles, airborne lead concentrations have decreased by 94%.

AOPA is working closely with the General Aviation Manufacturers Association and others to find FAA-certifiable, cost-effective alternatives to avgas that will allow the existing GA fleet to keep flying safely in the future. AOPA members can learn more about the future of avgas in the November 2008 AOPA PILOT's Goodbye Big Blue: The Future of Avgas.

Dave Hirschman

Dave Hirschman | AOPA Pilot Senior Editor , AOPA

AOPA Pilot Senior Editor Dave Hirschman joined AOPA in 2008. He has an airline transport pilot certificate and instrument and multiengine flight instructor certificates. Dave flies vintage, historical, and Experimental airplanes and specializes in tailwheel and aerobatic instruction.