Lawsuit on GA emissions dismissed

The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia court has dismissed a lawsuit by environmentalist  group Friends of the Earth pushing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to decide whether lead emissions from general aviation aircraft  endanger public health and welfare. The court said the issue is not one that it can take up under a provision of the Clean Air Act allowing “citizen suits.”

The ruling has freed the EPA from having to “make an accelerated endangerment finding” on emissions from general aviation aircraft, officials with the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association said.

“This ruling will help to ensure that efforts to find an unleaded replacement fuel will continue in a manner that will guarantee aviation safety,” AOPA officials said in a statement released March 29.

Friends of the Earth originally filed a petition with the EPA in 2006, detailing harms from lead emissions. The group alleged that by failing to make an endangerment finding, the EPA caused an “unreasonable delay.” The Clean Air Act allows citizens to sue the government if they feel the agency is delaying action without good cause.

The court found that Friends of the Earth’s request fell outside the bounds of the Clean Air Act’s citizen suit provision. “While the allegations raise significant concerns, they do not bear on the narrow jurisdictional issue now before the Court,” the ruling states.

“AOPA and the general aviation community long ago publicly recognized the need to find a safe, acceptable alternative to leaded avgas,” said AOPA President and CEO Craig Fuller. “The entire case proved to be an unnecessary diversion in the ongoing efforts to move general aviation to an unleaded fuel. We all know that the solution to an avgas alternative won’t be found in a courtroom.”

The FAA’s new fuels program office and the general aviation industry are continuing coordinated efforts to evaluate fuel alternatives and to ultimately transition the existing fleet to an unleaded fuel, Fuller noted. The recommendations include the establishment of a “fuels development roadmap,” centralized testing of possible fuel alternatives, establishing standard procedures for soliciting and selecting fuels to be tested, and establishing a centralized certification office to support unleaded fuel projects, he said.


  1. StevenDT says

    Take the “Friends of the Earth” litigants for a ride in a leaded fuel powered airplane first. Then strap on your parachute and offer a ride in an “Alternative” fuel powered plane. See who takes you up on the offer.

  2. Tim says

    Hooray! We kicked the can down the road another couple of years while NOTHING will get done to get us out from under the 100LL spectre, I’m not concerned about lawsuits. I’m concerned about the fact we are ONE tanker spill away from shutting down the entire 100LL supply chain to the USA.

    I was quietly on the sidelines rooting for the Friends of the Earth on this one. It would have gotten some of the powers that be that hold the keys in this matter (MOGAS, 91 Prem – forget Swift Fuel – I happen to think SWIFT Fuel is the 21st century version of the Musicman) off their fat assess and into action.

  3. Greg M says

    Swift Fuel is still on the road to the pumps. It’s just taking longer than hoped. But the good news is a pilot plant is in the construction stage. This plant will be capable of producing 100,000 gallons a year. In the meantime the Swift Fuel has joined forces with RMB Energy. RMB Energy, led by Rob Broin (a major US ethanol producer) , and Swift Development Renewable Fuels (SDRF), announce the formation of Swift Fuels LLC, a new entity created to pursue the development of 100SF, an unleaded aviation gasoline under UL102 specification and SwiftJet renewable jet fuel. (Note: SwiftFuel is produced in a very similar manner to ethanol) See more @ :

    • SFiii says

      Not so Swift, eh? 😉 Lead has been linked to violence and crime. In places like Oakland, CA, we are all too eager to get lead out of helicopter fuel.

  4. Fred says

    “Friends” is nothing more than an organization bent on litigious extortion cloaked in the veil of environmental do-gooders. Every suit they bring results in some kind of “settlement”. So what good have you done for the environment they so long to protect if they don’t stick by their guns and follow the suits through? “This is so bad for our environment that we’re going to sue you to change and make it better. But we’ll go away for $100,000,000”. Give me a break.

    • Roger says

      Well said Fred. Why is so many people so worried about 1% but give them money and they no longer care. It’s all about money, even this Swift fuel. I say keep the leaded gas and for those how don’t like it, get over it.

    • Bryan says

      I have been hearing about Swift fuel for years. It is perpetually just around the corner, and you cant get any of it to burn in your airplane. Swift enterprises has shown up at Oshkosh every year for the last 7 years or so saying: 1.they speculate a price of aprox $4 gallon at the pump once they get into mass production, and 2. they just have one or two ASTM paper work hurdles to overcome.

      If Swift Enterprises could ever produce such a fuel from unused biomass, in large quantities, at their hyped pump price; it would represent a threat to Big Oil’s auto fuel market. That is big money, and apparently the oil companies get a vote in the ASTM processes.

      I’d pay $7 or $8/gallon for Swift fuel right now and for a couple of years, if it was available; just to get the production moving. Unfortunately I dont think it is ever going to happen.

    • Roger says

      I agree completely with you Daniel. It’s less than 1%. 1% is next to nothing! Some people need to get a life.

  5. says

    I agree with Bryan. 91UL is FAA approved and supported with a Supplemental Type Certificate with the installation of INPULSE. With 91UL the price is atleast $1/gallon savings, in most cases more!

  6. Tom says

    I agree with Bryon. I’ve been flying with premium auto gas 91 octane for the past 6 years with NO ill effects and I save $2.50/ gal! Most of my pilot friends can use the same fuel. The FAA could give tax breaks to airports that carry premium 91 no ethanol fuel.

  7. Bryan says

    The FAA, Big Oil, AOPA, the other aviation groups will continue to create bureaucratic obstacles to a no lead, non-boutique fuel. The flying public will continue to pay $5-6.50 gallon for 100LL.

    91UL would work for between 80-90 % of the GA fleet right now, and it could be transported in the same trucks that haul UL auto fuel. Price to the flying public would be significantly less, and we would have the “friends of the earth” of our backs .

    This doesn’t seem to be on the agenda. Why not?

    • Roger says

      Bryan you apparently do not fly a six cylinder engine aircraft in high attitude on a summer day. I know because I tried. The engine popped and I barely got off the ground. Anyone who says they can use 91 octane has an experimental plane only. Accordingly to the FAA all small planes in the US combined is less than 1%. What is the big deal about 1%. Some people really need to get a life and get over it. 1% is next to nothing!

    • Greg Goodknight says

      Why? Because 80% of the avgas sold is used by airplanes that need 100 octane, the piston aircraft actually used for travel or commerce. They are also more efficient, getting more horsepower for the same fuel flow.

      • Roger says

        Greg, all the avgas sold amounts to only 1% according to the FAA. What is the big deal at 1%? It’s next to nothing.

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