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Attorney General William Tong


Attorney General Tong Supports EPA Finding on Leaded Aviation Gas

(Hartford, CT) -- Attorney General William Tong today joined a multistate coalition of 12 attorneys general supporting the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed finding that emissions from the combustion of leaded aviation gasoline (avgas) in piston-engine planes cause or contribute to air pollution that endangers public health and welfare. If finalized, the long-overdue finding will require the EPA to promulgate lead emission standards and regulations for piston-engine planes under the Clean Air Act, and require the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to establish aircraft fuel standards that are consistent with the aircraft lead emission standards. In a comment letter, the attorneys general urge EPA to swiftly finalize its proposed finding and commence its rulemaking process to protect the public – especially environmental justice communities situated near airports for piston-engine planes – from exposure to lead air pollution.

“Leaded aviation gas from piston-engine planes is the single worst contributor of airborne lead emissions in the United States. Unleaded fuel options are available, and this public health hazard is entirely preventable. I join with attorneys general from across the country in full support of EPA’s efforts to expedite the transition to safe fuel sources for all aircraft,” said Attorney General Tong.

The negative health impacts of lead exposure are well-documented. Short-term and prolonged lead exposure can cause memory loss, nausea, fatigue, and increase the risk of developing hypertension, heart disease, kidney disease, and infertility. Lead exposure is particularly dangerous for children, whose developing brains and nervous systems are more sensitive to its damaging effects. The impacts of lead exposure in children include behavioral issues, reduced IQ, slowed body growth, and a predisposition to depression, anxiety, or high-risk behavior. There is widespread scientific consensus that there is no safe level of lead exposure for children.

The coalition has a vested interest in protecting their residents from lead emissions from piston-engine airplanes. Leaded avgas is the only remaining lead-containing transportation fuel, and its combustion is the single largest contributor of airborne lead emissions in the United States. Piston-engine planes powered by leaded avgas released more than 930,000 pounds of lead in 2017 and are responsible for nearly three-quarters of total lead emissions nationwide.

General aviation airports that service these planes are often located near densely populated metropolitan areas, communities impacted by environmental hazards and risks, and residential areas near homes and schools.

Much, if not all, of the lead emissions from piston-engine planes could be avoided. In 2014, the FAA launched the Piston Aviation Fuels Initiative (PAFI) to speed up the “deployment of the most promising unleaded replacements,” but despite FAA’s certification of various unleaded fuels, including two recent fuel replacements suitable for nearly all piston-engine planes, these unleaded aviation fuels have not successfully penetrated the market. Less than three percent of U.S. airports that service piston-engine planes sell unleaded alternatives.

In the comment letter, the attorneys general support EPA’s proposed finding and urge the agency to swiftly issue a final endangerment determination and initiate a rulemaking to regulate lead emissions from avgas. In the comment letter, the attorneys general argue:

· States have a vested interest in protecting their residents from the public health harms associated with exposure to lead pollution from piston-engine planes that use leaded avgas;
· Leaded avgas is a significant and preventable source of airborne lead pollution; and
· EPA must swiftly finalize its proposed finding and address the serious public health and environmental justice harms posed by avgas in a rulemaking for aircraft lead emissions.

Attorney General Tong joins the attorneys general of California, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and Wisconsin in filing the comments.

A copy of the letter can be found here.

Assistant Attorney General Daniel Salton and Matthew Levine, Deputy Associate Attorney General/Chief of the Environment Section are assisting the Attorney General in this matter.

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