Court Dismisses Leaded Avgas Lawsuit

Ruling rejects demands of Friends of the Earth.



A lawsuit demanding the immediate regulation of leaded avgas was dismissed by a U.S. District Court last week, constituting the latest development in the ongoing saga over the widely used aviation fuel.

The lawsuit, filed by the Friends of the Earth last year, argued that the Environmental Protection Agency had not properly addressed a 2006 petition calling upon the agency to designate leaded avgas as a dangerous substance. In its ruling last week, the court dismissed the claim, saying the EPA has full discretion in making an endangerment finding and cannot be forced to issue one by a civil group like Friends of the Earth. Had the court ruled in favor of that environmental group, the EPA may have been required to make a decision regarding the future of avgas by a date mandated by the court.

The Friends of the Earth filed the 2006 petition under the argument that sixteen million people reside near airports that rely on leaded avgas operations. The group maintains there is no safe amount of lead exposure and claims that a ban on avgas is needed to spur development of alternative fuel technologies.

To that end, the FAA formed an unleaded avgas transition aviation rulemaking committee in 2011 to facilitate the move toward an unleaded fuel source. Members of another group known as the General Aviation Avgas Coalition maintain that progress has been made toward that end, with lead emissions reduced by as much as 93 percent over the past three decades.