Congressional Committee Looking At National 100LL Ban


A congressional committee will hold a hearing into banning leaded aviation fuel across the country on Thursday. The hearing, called “Toxic Air: How Leaded Aviation Fuel is Poisoning America’s Children” is being held by the environment subcommittee of the House Oversight and Reform Committee. It will hear from three witnesses: Marciela Lechuga, a resident living next to Reid-Hillview Airport in San Jose, California; Cindy Chavez, the Santa Clara County Supervisor; and Bruce Lanphear, a professor of Health Sciences at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, British Columbia. Chavez led the charge to get sales of 100LL banned at Reid- Hillview and said the Thursday hearing is an important next step.

“The Congressional Oversight Environmental Subcommittee I will testify at on Thursday is significant because it is focusing on banning leaded aviation fuel nationally,” Chavez told San José Spotlight. The county commissioned a study that found children living near the airport had elevated lead levels, but a subsequent analysis of the study found the levels to be within the statistical norms for kids in the rest of the state. Another study found no evidence of elevated lead levels in soil around the airport.

The Environmental Protection Agency is expected to issue an “endangerment finding” on leaded avgas next year, but the committee hearing is the first political movement on the issue at the federal level. The committee’s press release on the hearing gives an indication of where it’s leaning. “Airborne lead exposure from aviation fuel is an urgent yet little-known health crisis impacting millions of people who live near general aviation airports in the United States,” the release says. “Despite the dangers associated with it, many airplanes continue to utilize leaded fuel, putting the health and safety of Americans—especially children—at risk.”

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

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  1. It grieves me that people are so stupid/partisan that they just accept unscientific methods as validation for their jaded points of view. That’s the real danger to a free society.

      • Earlier cases include ‘acid rain’
        – lakes returning to slightly acid state after soil runoff from logging had shifted them toward alkaline, natural state with trees tends toward acidic especially from conifers
        – ‘ozone holes’, which are normal over the poles as sun does not create as much ozone in cold air
        – antiseptic ‘mercurochrome’ no longer sold because the small amount of mercury one could ingest from treating a cut would be terrible

        Eco-activists lack perspective on the surface, deep down they are simply against human life.

    • Yes, and those 3 are all Charter members of the “Close Reid Hillview Airport in San Jose Club”.. Helps explain that hearing is just theater to give Ms. Chavez (who is running for Mayor also..) a bigger stage to share her BS… It’s not about the children, it’s about getting their hands on 180 acres of land at $5M/acre for free to redevelop… If Khanna or Chavez really cared about children and lead, they’d figure out how to spend the $100M the county received in settlement of litigation over lead paint, and actually eliminate lead paint and lead in plumbing in the older homes around the airport…

  2. Our high compression engines require 100 octane or better. It is not impossible to formulate without the ethyl lead. The industry has been dragging its feet for nearly 50 years since aircraft got its safety exemption. Congressional bans on LL gasoline needs to include an FAA equivalency directive.

    • Yes you can get to 100 Octane rating without the Tetraethyl lead… GAMI and Swift have done it. GAMI Says they are finished testing, Swift says they are still in process of testing.. Neither wants to give away their formula for free.. Don’t blame them…

      • Swift seemed ready to sell product but quit is STC route to join the PAFI collective effort that did not produce much. GAMI has STCs for its G100UL fuel, which seems closer to 100LL than Swift’s, but GAMI’s distributor is not competent to tell you where it is sold, you have to contact each FBO and ask.

    • “Our high compression engines”

      What high compression engines? Aircraft engines are generally between 6.3:1 and 8.5:1. My C-85 will run on regular unleaded (87 octane).

      • 8.5:1 is high compression for aircraft engines. Also includes turbocharged engines. I don’t know of any turbocharged engines that can run on lower than 100 octane. Most of those turbocharged engines are on twins that need the turbocharger to meet single engine performance requirements. There are some radials that can but those have gear driven blowers, not turbos.

  3. It seems that in today’s world, the only ways to get any progress done is either have regulations that force the issue or wait for crusty old farts who have a death grip on the past to die.

    Clearly private industry would not lift a finger to make a change unless they could maximize profit and screw the public health concerns. COFs hate change, hate regulations and don’t want to spend a dime on innovation, but love burning $100 burger trips for fun. When you look at aviation engine technology in comparison to auto it’s like it took a few steps past the Wright Flyer and said…meh, good enough.

    I’m betting on the COFs dying off before we get any real change in the GA industry (spoken as one with graying hair).

  4. It’s to be expected. Stupid people vote for stupid democrats. Elections have consequences. I love the irony though, the same folks are flying around in their personal jets while trying to stop the little guy from using his little J-3 cub. Must be nice not having to live under the same rules you force on other people.

  5. The ultimate goal of the elites here is not the banning of 100LL.

    It’s the demise of GA.

    Not that they care about airplanes so much per se but they burn fuel, liberate CO2, and represent a degree of personal freedom anathema to government as we see it now.

    They want to ban cars also, or at least the fuel that powers them forcing us into expensive EVs as well.

    Even motorcycles are in the crosshairs. Regulations against their emissions, which are miniscule in the grand scheme, are ever increasing as well.

    We are just past ‘peak’ car, airplane, motorcycle. Many of the things we enjoy are on the downhill now.

    Efforts to resist are wise and worthwhile, but I suspect doomed to failure.

    • And looking beyond the USA, what will this mean for GA in other countries? For example, Chile: I don’t know if Chile refines its own 100LL or imports it from us. But either way, their new Communist president recently stated his (ostensible) intent to save the environment at a climate meeting in LA a couple months ago. So if there is a ban of 100LL in the USA, Chile will either ban the refining 100LL too or it will stop importing it. Which will kill GA (such as it is) in Chile.

      Around the rest of the world too?

  6. Banning leaded aviation fuel will have the additional benefit of helping mitigate the housing crisis as 1000s of acres of developable urban land will be come available to developers as the GA airports close. /S

    • Perhaps but how did that work out in Edmonton?

      Certainly city council’s wild notions turned out to be craziness. Eventually some houses were built on former land of Edmonton Industrial Airport (CYXD).

  7. “The committee’s press release on the hearing gives an indication of where it’s leaning.” Really? From it’s press release, it is pretty obvious the committee has already decided on its final conclusions and this is just a pony and dog show to justify their position. Since the three witnesses are firmly on the side of banning lead in gasoline, what is the point of even having the hearing? The fact that a more rigorous review of the exposure findings in California could not support the belief that close exposure to a GA airport was causing more elevated lead levels than the general population, might give Congress cause for concern. But then, I guess if you don’t bother seeking opposing viewpoints on an issue, your mind is already made up.

    I’m pretty sure there is not a GA airplane owner in the country that would object to ditching leaded fuel in exchange for a cleaner burning engine that would last longer and require less maintenance. But this sounds like cheap election year politicking and is not helping. Maybe they should be hauling the FAA’s top brass into a hearing and have them explain why they are stonewalling GAMI’s attempts to provide that lead free alternative.

  8. Yeah.. Our Semi-Radical Congressman is paying back a political favor for Zoe and CIndy Chavez here to hold a hearing and keep waving around the flawed “Zahran” Study produced for the county by a Biz School professor in Colorado who analyzed assumptions linked to correlations. Even he repeatedly denied the situation was anything like a “crisis” or Flint Michigan, but Cindy (Leader of the movement to close the airport and let her friends redevelop it for increased tax revenues..) found another professor to help stir the passion. And Ms. Lechuga is an immigration lawyer fresh from the Texas border who moved in next to the airport and was appointed by Cindy to the county’s “Airport Commission” to give her some basis to claim credibility.. Her statement might as well be: “I moved next to an airport because housing was less expensive, and now I want it to close!” Anyone wanting to understand the flaws in Cindy’s lead study should read Mr. McDonald’s rebuttal document submitted to the Subcommittee for actual facts. And note the EPA did study Reid Hillview in 2020, and found no harmful lead using real sensors. So did the Bay Area Air Quality Management District… And the EPA isn’t bothering to participate in the hearing…

  9. What about Alaska? Banning 100LL without a replacement would ground most pt135 ops there. As far as I know auto gas is not legal in pt135 ops. Even though some operators have switched to turbine equipment, that is still too expensive for most. Since Alaska relies much more on GA aviation than the lower 48, banning 100LL without a replacement in place would just about grind the economy in Alaska to a halt.

  10. While lead is clearly not good for anyone, do we see a spike in lead poisoning symptoms in children that grow up below the departure ends of runways? I have never heard of any findings that support an “emergency”. Europe is considering banning internal combustion engines across the board… not a good role model for life in the real world.

  11. I’ve been saying that this kind of action was just around the corner and could crush GA, with how the unleaded alternatives are being held back by the bureaucratic mire. I really hope this doesn’t pan out because we don’t seem to be any closer to aviation unleaded than we were a decade ago and governments love labeling things “emergencies” under dubious reasoning to take drastic action which takes mounds of money and legal action to undo or delay. If we were forced to use 100UL next five years we’d see a huge downturn in GA since the certification, rollout and adoption will be slow and incredibly expensive. I can barely afford to fly now with today’s fuel prices, I don’t even want to know how much 100UL is going to cost.