The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has denied the most recent petition from environmental groups asking the agency to reconsider a 2012 decision not to immediately pursue an endangerment finding for leaded avgas.
In a Jan. 23 letter to the petitioners, the EPA said it takes the issue of lead emissions from aircraft seriously and is continuing to investigate the degree to which those emissions may pose a health threat. Any endangerment finding, the letter said, would be based on data collected during the agency’s ongoing investigations.
The letter was a response to the most recent petition from Friends of the Earth, Physicians for Social Responsibility, and Oregon Aviation Watch, filed in April 2014. In repeated actions since 2006, the groups have asked the EPA to determine that leaded avgas poses a threat to public health.
In 2012, the EPA said it was not ready to make such a finding and was pursuing additional data to make a scientific determination as to whether lead emissions from aircraft engines pose an endangerment. Friends of the Earth challenged the EPA’s decision, but it was upheld in court. At that time, the EPA said it could have a notice of proposed endangerment sometime in 2015.
In its January 2015 denial, the EPA said it will delay the date of the proposed finding of endangerment because of budget issues, the scheduling of other regulatory actions, and the need for additional research. Under the new timetable, the EPA will produce a notice of proposed rulemaking in 2017 with a final determination expected in 2018. That timing coincides the with the FAA’s goal of having completed testing on one or more alternative aviation fuels by 2018.
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 (PAFI), 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 initial testing 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 EPA publicized its decision to deny the Friends of the Earth petition on the aviation page of its website. Also on that page, the EPA provided an updated report on its airport monitoring program. The agency monitored lead levels at 17 airports and found that at 15 of the sites, levels were below the National Ambient Air Quality Standard for lead. The findings were first made available in June 2013, but the report overview provided on the website adds monitoring data through December 2013.