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.