August 16, 2011
By Dan Namowitz
U.S. Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-Calif.) and 14 other members of the House GA Caucus have requested federal intervention in a California lawsuit that pits an environmental group against avgas sellers and distributors and could potentially disrupt the orderly transition to an unleaded aviation fuel.
The House members all signed a letter to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt, and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson, asking that they direct their legal counsel to intervene on the side of the California businesses, who could face civil penalties under the California Proposition 65 proceedings.
The case is a “critical legal matter facing the aviation industry that involves both your agencies,” the letter said.
In May, the environmental group Center for Environmental Health notified numerous California businesses that they were in violation of Prop 65 by having failed to warn the public of the lead content of avgas. CEH now awaits a federal court ruling in a counterclaim filed July 19 by the businesses, who asked for an injunction against state action with both the EPA and FAA pursuing rulemaking related to the development of lead-free aviation fuel. A federal court hearing was scheduled for Oct. 3.
“Allowing a California judge to dictate ad hoc the content of lead in aviation gasoline before the U.S. government can address the problem would disrupt these efforts to transition the aviation industry to an unleaded fuel. That is why CEH’s threat must be taken seriously,” the members wrote.
“We believe that federal law preempts the state of California from regulating in this area and we greatly appreciate the support we have received from Congress on this important issue,” said Lorraine Howerton, AOPA vice president of legislative affairs.
In addition to Bilbray, House members who signed the letter included House GA Caucus Co-Chairman Sam Graves (R-Mo.) and Reps. Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.), Tom McClintock (R-Calif.), Don Young (R-Alaska), Leonard Boswell (D-Iowa), Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.), Aaron Schock (R-Ill.), Tom Petri (R-Wis.), Randy Hultgren (R-Ill.), Chip Cravaack (R-Minn.), Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), Billy Long (R-Mo.), Lynn Jenkins (R-Kan.), and Bill Flores (R-Texas).
Dan Namowitz is an aviation writer and flight instructor. He has been a pilot since 1985 and an instructor since 1990.
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