Press Release issued by Sen. Mark Begich on July 8Expressing deep concern for the potential negative impact on Alaska, U.S. Sen. Mark Begich has submitted formal comments to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regarding a proposed rule which may regulate or even ban the use of leaded gas in piston engine air craft. In a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, Begich asks for the comment period to be extended to allow Alaskans an opportunity to be heard on this important issue and for the EPA to further consider the consequences in a state with over 10,000 piston engine aircraft.
“The premature regulation of leaded avgas will have a substantially negative impact on transportation, health and safety in Alaska. At this point the potential costs to Alaska associated with regulating avgas far outweigh the benefits and threaten to leave Alaska’s rural communities without a reliable means of transportation,” Begich writes.
In his letter, Begich outlines the geographic challenges of transportation in Alaska, noting the state has six times more pilots and 16 times more planes per capita than the rest of the country. He says the predominance of piston engine aircraft is a direct result of Alaska’s expansive geography and limited road infrastructure. Over 80 percent of Alaska communities have no road access and rely completely on piston engine aircraft to stay connected to the rest of the state.
“When Alaskans in a remote village require medical treatment at a hospital, most frequently they travel to the larger community via piston engine aircraft. The EPA’s regulatory announcement for the proposed rulemaking on avgas states, ‘lead is not used in jet fuel, the fuel utilized by most commercial aircraft.’ While this statement may hold true for the Lower 48 states, the vast majority of commercial aircraft in Alaska are smaller piston-driven aircraft, which use avgas,” Begich says.
While acknowledging the transition to an unleaded aviation gas is a desirable goal, Begich says the FAA and EPA need to first find a replacement fuel that will work for Alaska. With no substitute fuel for 100 Low Lead, the most common type of avgas, the EPA should not phase out or eliminate the fuel until a suitable, affordable replacement is found.
“I implore you to carefully consider the comments submitted by Alaskans who will be most directly affected by the EPA’s decision,” Begich said. “I am extremely concerned the EPA may move to regulate emission standards from piston engine aircraft through phasing out or eliminating avgas. This would have a direct and significant negative impact on Alaskans,” he said.
Begich asks the EPA to extend the comment period on this rulemaking to October 31, 2010 to accommodate Alaskans, especially aviators and small businesses, who are significantly busier in the summer months. The current deadline is August 27, 2010.
Sen. Begich is co-chair of the bi-partisan, 31-member Senate General Aviation Caucus and says he plans to hold a briefing on the avgas topic to make sure fellow caucus members are informed of the potential ramifications of the rule change on the GA community.