The Center for Environmental Health, an Oakland, California-based nonprofit, has settled a 2011 lawsuit it brought against numerous aviation fuel suppliers in the state, the group announced Dec. 12.
Under the settlement, 30 fuel distributors have agreed to warn residents living within one kilometer of those airports of the potential risks by posting warning signs advising of the hazards of lead at 23 California airports where they operate. Warning signs are a common site in California and are frequently posted on buildings where potentially toxic chemicals may be in use. The distributors also agreed to sell the fuel with the lowest-lead content that is commercially available in sufficient quantities and to make mogas, an unleaded fuel suitable for use in some aircraft engines when sourced without ethanol, available to fixed-base operators that request it subject to certain terms, such as liability insurance coverage and availability. In addition, the 30 companies will pay a combined $550,000 in penalties and legal costs.
The Center for Environmental Health filed its lawsuit under the California Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, better known as Proposition 65, in an effort to spur change. Proposition 65 requires the state of California to maintain and update a list of chemicals known to the state to cause cancer or reproductive harm. As of June 2014, that list contained the names of 958 chemicals, including a handful that had been delisted following new research.
In a statement posted on the Center for Environmental Health website following the settlement, Research Director Caroline Cox said, “With this settlement today, we expect the aviation industry to move more quickly towards safer, lead-free fuels.”
The aviation and petroleum industries have been working closely with the FAA to identify one or more replacements for leaded avgas. Through the Piston Aviation Fuels Initiative, of which AOPA is a leading member, four candidate fuels have been selected for the first phase of testing at the FAA’s William J. Hughes Technical Center. That process is on track to be completed by late 2015 when one or two of the most promising fuels will move on to full-scale testing in aircraft and engines. The FAA has set a target of 2018 to identify and approve one or more unleaded aviation fuels.
In addition to AOPA and the FAA, the PAFI steering group includes the American Petroleum Institute, the Experimental Aircraft Association, the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, the National Air Transportation Association, and the National Business Aviation Association.