EPA recently issued a response to a petition filed by a coalition seeking action to address the problem of aviation lead air pollution, particularly at the nation’s busiest GA-training airports. Lead was banned decades ago in automotive fuel, paints, and other products, yet lead is still being added to the fuel used by small propeller-driven aircraft, even newly-built aircraft with brand-new aircraft engines.
A quick look at the timeline on this matter reveals just how ineffective EPA is at pressuring FAA to protect air quality near airports. The timeline on this issue is as follows:
- October 3, 2006: petition by Friends of the Earth, seeking rules to regulate GA lead emissions
- late 2008: EPA strengthened the NAAQS for lead, reducing the allowable level from 1.5 micrograms per cubic meter, to 0.15 micrograms per cubic meter
- 2010: EPA improved lead monitoring by requiring readings at selected airports
- July 18, 2012: EPA responded to the 2006 petition
- April 21, 2014: petition by a coalition, asking EPA to reconsider the 2012 response
- January 23, 2015: EPA’s final response letter, responding to the 2014 petition
Note that the timeline includes two formal response letters by EPA. In the first one, in mid-2012, EPA estimated they would produce a final determination in mid- to late-2015, with regard to Avgas lead emissions endangerment. In their latest formal response letter, EPA is now estimating they will produce a final determination in 2018, with regard to Avgas lead emissions endangerment.
That’s twelve years, 2006 to 2008, just to produce a ‘final determination’, which does not even get to the actual change needed. An entire generation will be born and grow up breathing in this lead, at and near hundreds of lead-impacted airports in the U.S. — not just the ‘seventeen’ airports posted in EPA’s latest questionable summary, but scores of other ‘unlisted’ airports, too (like Hillsboro, near Portland, OR).
The beat goes on. And, so does the AvGas lead pollution….