EPA meets with Alaska operators on avgas issue

February 14, 2011

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is listening to pilots’ input about the potential effects of a transition to an unleaded avgas, representatives from the agency affirmed during a recent visit to Alaska.

Rural communities in Alaska—82 percent of which are not accessible by road—rely heavily on piston aircraft for transportation of people and supplies. As the EPA studies lead emissions and considers the possibility of standards for GA emissions down the road, the agency will ask for comments at every step of the way, the EPA said at the Alaska FAA Industry Council meeting Feb. 9 and reaffirmed at the Alaska Forum on the Environment the following day. Representatives from the agency also got a firsthand look at some of the aircraft that rely on a dependable supply of 100LL to serve their vital role for Alaska communities.

“I think they got a better sense of the role that aircraft play in Alaska,” said AOPA Alaska Regional Representative Tom George, who met with the EPA representatives and brought them to see aircraft in action. “Their visit also helped allay concerns about how willing the EPA is to work with general aviation operators.”

Kathryn Sargeant, director of health effects at the EPA’s Benefits and Air Toxics Center at the Office of Transportation and Air Quality, and Senior Environmental Scientist Marion Hoyer met with George and other representatives from government and industry to talk about the EPA’s role in studying lead emissions from piston aircraft. They emphasized that so far the EPA is only studying GA emissions, not proposing regulations on them, and that no fixed time frame has been established for publishing a finding from its review.

In 2010, the EPA published a notice that it was studying the issue and asking for comments; the notice received 490 comments, 72 of which were from Alaska. Sargeant and Hoyer explained that if the EPA proceeds from its initial notice to an endangerment finding, it would then start a discussion regarding an emission standard. Public comment periods would be provided at several steps along the way before any new standards were issued. 

At the Alaska Forum on the Environment Feb. 9, George spoke on behalf of AOPA and the General Aviation Avgas Coalition about the coalition’s plan for the transition to an unleaded fuel and concerns about the economic and environmental factors that contribute to an uncertainty about the continued availability of 100LL.

After the forum, George took Sargeant and Hoyer to see some cargo aircraft on the ramp at Everts Air, which provides air cargo transportation to 19 major destinations in Alaska. The women had the opportunity to crawl through a C-46 on the ramp and watch a DC-6 arrive and unload. High-power, knock-critical aircraft like these provide essential services to Alaskans, so input from operators in the state will be important to the EPA and FAA as they determine a course of action for the future.