A coalition of FBOs and fuel distributors who sell avgas in California have sued the Center for Environmental Health (CEH) and the Attorney General of the State of California in response to a notice of an intended lawsuit against coalition members for supplying and using leaded aviation gasoline, allegedly in violation of the California Safe Drinking Water & Toxic Enforcement Act (Prop 65). The National Air Transportation Association (NATA), which has engaged common counsel with the coalition to protect the interests of all NATA members, is supporting this group with facilitation and administrative services.
The coalition asked a U.S. judge to issue an injunction to stop Prop 65 enforcement actions from proceeding. According to the complaint, the Prop 65 lawsuits will disrupt ongoing efforts by the FAA and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), who are working with industry groups to identify an alternative to leaded fuel that can be safely and reliably used by piston-powered airplanes. Because any lawsuit under Prop 65 initiates state enforcement proceedings in California and can lead to imposition of huge civil penalties, which would cripple the small businesses who sell avgas, the complaint seeks immediate relief to protect the rights of coalition members to sell avgas under federal law and the U.S. Constitution. Aircraft have used leaded aviation gasoline, under FAA and EPA regulations, for decades.
The legal actions come on the heels of the May 9, 2011 “notices of violation” issued to a large number of California aviation fuel suppliers and airport FBOs, claiming they failed to warn residents near airports that aircraft emissions contain lead and “discharged” lead through engine emissions on takeoff and landing. In the notices CEH proposes as “remedies” a complete bar on the sale of leaded avgas, clean up of allegedly contaminated drinking water sources, and the payment of substantial civil penalties, plus CEH’s attorneys’ fees.
“The CEH litigation under California Proposition 65 threatens to interfere with obvious federal interests in aviation safety and aircraft engine emissions policy,” stated NATA President & 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 underway.”
In addition to NATA’s efforts, the group has received significant support from the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA), the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA), and the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), all of whom share a common interest with the coalition in protecting the GA community from efforts to utilize state laws to block the sale of avgas in California.