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California Airports And Suppliers Reach Legal Settlement With Use Of Avgas

December 17, 2014 - The Center for Environmental Health announced it has won a legal agreement with 30 companies that sell and/or distribute lead-containing aviation gas (avgas) at 23 California airports, calling on the companies to provide safer alternative fuels. The companies include the leading suppliers of aviation fuels made by Chevron, Shell Oil, and other major fuel companies.  

The settlement includes fuel companies operating at airports identified by the EPA as having some of the highest lead emissions among all airports nationally, including Van Nuys Airport in LA County (listed by EPA as the airport with the country’s highest lead emissions), Los Angeles International (LAX), Oakland International, Orange County’s John Wayne Airport, Montgomery Field in San Diego, and others throughout the state. 

Lead is an additive in avgas used in piston-engine aircraft, usually small planes classified for general aviation or as air taxis, to boost fuel octane and purportedly to improve performance. In 2008, 550 tons of lead was used in the making of avgas. The EPA has noted that lead emissions from aviation fuel are “expected to distribute widely through the environment,” and has previously found that emissions from small aircraft using leaded gas account for half of the nation’s air emissions of lead.

“With this settlement today, we expect the aviation industry to move more quickly to towards safer, lead-free fuels,” said Caroline Cox, CEH Research Director. “No one living near an airport should be exposed to a stunningly toxic chemical like lead when safer fuels are available.” The case, “CEH vs. Aerodynamic Aviation (RG11 600721)”, was heard in Alameda County Superior Court. 

Some alternative aviation fuels already exist. For example, a newer form of Avgas, known as 100VLL for “very low lead,” has recently been approved by the Federal Aviation Administration, but most suppliers have not yet made it available in California. Also, ethanol-free premium automotive gas (Mogas) is an FAA-approved fuel that is compatible with more than 70 percent of current aircraft. In addition, the FAA is now testing four lead-free aviation fuels, including fuels made by Shell and Total.



Under the agreement with CEH, the fuel distributors will offer for sale the lowest-lead fuel that is commercially available in sufficient quantity. The companies will also make Mogas available to airport-based fuel companies (fixed base operators, or FBOs) that request it, subject to certain terms (eg, coverage under liability insurance) and availability.  

The companies are also required to warn residents living within one kilometer of the airports where they operate of the lead risk, and to post warning signs at the airports. The companies, including Air Petro Corporation (a leading seller of Chevron fuels), Eastern Aviation Fuels (a leading national marketer of Shell branded fuels), Avfuel Corporation (the nation’s leading independent supplier of aviation fuels) and others will pay a combined $550,000 in penalties and legal costs. 

Leaded aviation gas has been recognized as a problem for more than a decade. The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), which joined with the National Air Transportation Association (NATA) and other aviation and petroleum trade groups to form the General Aviation Avgas Coalition, told EPA in a 2010 comment that the groups are committed to “an unleaded future.” 

In 2011, the FAA and EPA created the Unleaded Avgas Transition Aviation Rulemaking Committee, including industry representatives from the AOPA and NATA, to come up with lead-free solutions. But the groups’ 2012 report called for an 11 year process to phase-in lead-free fuels. 

“Eleven years is too long to wait for clean air free from lead poisoning risks,” said Cox. “We will continue to monitor the industry and keep the pressure on for safer fuels as quickly as possible.” 

The Center for Environmental Health (CEH) is the leading national nonprofit committed to ending health threats from toxic chemicals in our air, water, food and in products we use every day. CEH protects children and families from harmful chemicals by working with communities, consumers, workers, and government to demand and support safer business practices. We also work with major industries and leaders in green business to promote healthier alternatives to toxic products and practices. 

Settling Defendants:
Air88,Inc.d/b/aCrown Air Aviation
Air RutterInternational LLC
AirFlite, Inc.
Airport Property Partners LLCd/b/aAPPJetCenter
Amelia Reid Aviation LLC
American Airports Corporation
Ameriflyers of California
Atlantic Aviation Corporation
Aviation Consultants, Inc.d/b/a San Luis Jet Center
Business Jet Center Oakland,LP
California in Nice,Inc.d/b/a Nice Air
Castle & Cooke Aviation Services,Inc.
Channel Islands Aviation,Inc.
Lanc Air Corp.d/b/aSan Diego Jet Center
Landmark Aviation
Loyd’s Aviation
Maguire Aviation Group,LLC
Napa Jet Center, Inc.
Pacific States Aviation Inc.
Rossi Aircraft,Inc.
Sacramento International Jet Center,Inc.
Signature Flight Support Corporation
South Bay Aviation,Inc.
Sun Air Jet,LLC
Van Nuys Skyways d/b/aMillionAirBurbank
Air Petro Corporation and World Fuel Services Corporation
Avfuel Corporation
Eastern Aviation Fuels, Inc.
Downstream Aviation, LP

1. Bob Hope
2. Brackett Field
3. Brown Field Muni Airport
4. Buchanan Field
5. Camarillo Airport
6. El Monte Airport
7. Fresno Yosemite Internatl Airport
8. Hayward Executive
9. John Wayne Airport
10. Long Beach Airport (Daugherty Field)
11. Los Angeles Internatl Airport
12. Meadows Field
13. Montgomery Field
14. Napa County Airport
15. Oakland Internatl Airport
16. Palo Alto Airport
17. Reid-Hillview Airport
18. Sacramento Executive Airport
19. San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport
20. Santa Barbara Municipal Airport
21. Santa Monica Municipal Airport
22. Van Nuys Airport
23. Zamperini Field


- Friends Of The Earth Pressures EPA To Get The Lead Out Of Avgas

- NATA Concerned With Environmental Group's Actions On Avgas

- Avgas Coalition Responds To Threat Of Lawsuit Against Avgas Suppliers

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