July 1, 2011
By Dan Namowitz
The National Air Transportation Association has announced its backing of a lawsuit brought by fixed-base operators and avgas distributors in California to block enforcement actions that could result from legal proceedings threatened by an environmental organization in May.
The coalition of FBOs and fuel distributors sued the state’s attorney general and the Center for Environmental Health (CEH) in response to a notice of violation issued against coalition members for supplying and using leaded avgas. AOPA reported May 10 that the complaint against the aviation businesses claimed that their activities violated the California Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act (Prop 65).
On July 1 the coalition asked a federal judge to enjoin Prop 65 enforcement actions from proceeding, arguing that the Prop 65 lawsuits would disrupt ongoing efforts by the FAA and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to work with industry groups to find a safe, reliable alternative to leaded fuel for piston aircraft.
NATA announced that it would support the coalition “with facilitation and administrative services.” AOPA, the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, and the Experimental Aircraft Association also have worked to support the businesses named in the avgas action.
NATA’s statement warned that the legal moves against the aviation enterprises might have the unintended consequence of slowing down the process of eliminating lead from avgas.
“The CEH litigation under California Proposition 65 threatens to interfere with obvious federal interests in aviation safety and aircraft engine emissions policy,” said NATA President and CEO James K. Coyne. “It is imperative that the issues involving the safe and effective transition to an unleaded aviation gasoline be addressed in a coordinated way at the federal level, and that the FAA and EPA play their role as the agencies whose expertise will be applied through activities that are already well under way.”
When the legal action against the aviation businesses was announced, AOPA said that the threat highlighted the need for the FAA to assert its leadership, working with the EPA and industry to continue the safe transition to a new fuel.
AOPA also pointed out that the lead content of aviation gasoline has already been reduced by 50 percent since passage of the federal Clean Air Act, and that the GA Avgas Coalition has taken steps to reduce lead content a further 20 percent without adversely affecting air safety.
The action brought by the aviation companies July 1 sought immediate protection because lawsuits under Prop 65 could lead to business-crippling civil penalties.
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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