EPA confirms: No lead ban deadline looms on avgas

July 28, 2010

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) confirmed July 27 that it has not set a deadline for the removal of lead from avgas—and that it will coordinate closely with industry stakeholders in the development of a solution to the issue.

“EPA has not established or proposed any date by which lead emissions from aircraft operating on leaded avgas would need to be reduced,” wrote Margo Oge, director of the office of transportation and air quality for the EPA. “In fact EPA does not have authority to control aviation fuels.”

The statements, which came in response to questions from AOPA and other industry groups, were the most explicit affirmation thus far of the EPA’s commitment to consider safety and economic impacts on general aviation in any action that it takes.

AOPA, the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, Experimental Aircraft Association, National Business Aviation Association, and National Air Transport Association had requested clarification from the EPA about perceptions within the GA industry that the EPA is taking steps to remove lead from avgas by 2017; the GA organizations are part of a coalition working to develop a plan for the transition to an unleaded avgas, and the organizations said managing these fears within the industry was diverting resources from efforts to work toward the actual goal of an unleaded future for GA.

“The perception that there is a defined deadline for the elimination of lead in aviation gasoline is causing a level of panic amongst various sectors within our industry. The resulting uncertainties are having serious economic consequences as both current and potential aircraft owners are delaying making decisions about aircraft acquisitions, engine overhauls, and repairs. Many of the decisions being delayed could have consequential safety ramifications,” the organizations wrote (link).

“Any EPA action to require piston-engine aircraft to reduce emissions of lead in the future will involve a thorough process of identifying options and will consider safety, economic impacts and other impacts,” Oge wrote.

The EPA took an early step in the regulatory process that could lead to a phaseout of leaded avgas when it released an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPR) earlier this year. But the agency explained that it has no date or timeframe by which the GA industry would not be able to use leaded avgas: “The ANPR is the first step EPA is taking to respond to a petition from the Friends of the Earth requesting that EPA find endangerment from and act to regulate lead emissions from aircraft using leaded aviation gasoline (avags).”

The EPA assured the coalition that it will consult with the FAA, states, industry groups, and user groups, and consider the impact of potential regulatory action on the GA fleet. “The EPA is committed to working with these stakeholders to keep piston-engine aircraft flying in an environmentally acceptable and safe manner throughout the United States,” the agency wrote.

The GA avgas coalition is working with the EPA, FAA, and Congress to assure safety, minimize the impact on the existing fleet, and ensure the sustainability and growth of GA throughout the transition to an unleaded aviation fuel. The group is educating members of Congress on the issue and continues to stress the importance of the FAA’s leadership role in the process. The coalition also is working to have Congress appropriate an additional $2 million requested in the President’s Fiscal Year 2011 budget that is specifically to be used for avgas research and development.