More than one-quarter of the U.S. Senate recently signed a letter to the administrators of the FAA and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) asking those agencies to delay using any regulatory process to eliminate lead in aviation fuels until a suitable replacement can be found.
A bipartisan group of 27 senators co-signed the letter, led by Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) and Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.). They stressed the importance of working with the GA community and the Congressional General Aviation Caucus to ensure that the nation’s general aviation system is not crippled by the elimination of 100LL without a widely available and affordable replacement that can be distributed nationwide.
“We appreciate the congressional support for maintaining the supply of high-octane aviation gasoline while the important and complex work is done to find an unleaded alternative,” said Doug Macnair, vice president of government relations for the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA), which is a member of the FAA’s Unleaded Avgas Transition Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC), which is working to identify the process necessary to develop, test and approve an unleaded alternative. “Eliminating 100LL without a suitable replacement would endanger aviation safety and create enormous economic burdens on regions and industries that rely upon aviation.”
The EPA, facing possible legal action by environmental group Friends of the Earth, published an advance notice of proposed rulemaking on lead emissions from piston-aircraft engines in April 2010. At the request of GA’s alphabet groups, the EPA granted an extension on the process in June 2010.
The EPA is not planning an immediate ban on leaded aviation gasoline and has publicly stated that it will not take precipitous action until a suitable replacement can be identified, EAA officials noted, adding, “At the same time, however, the agency is continuing to pressure the general aviation industry to work diligently and expeditiously toward a long-term solution.”
After outlining the safety and economic threats posed by the premature elimination of leaded avgas, the senators concluded: “We urge you to consider these concerns before you move forward with any rulemaking that would stop the use of leaded avgas before the FAA has the opportunity to take appropriate measures needed to approve a new, safe, and affordable unleaded avgas that takes into account the safety of those aboard the affected aircraft.”