Alaska Dispatch: Alaska’s senators oppose EPA’s proposed ban on avgas

has met with opposition from Alaska's congressional delegation.

The agency has waged a war against lead ingredients in many substances over the past 30 years. Its newest target, leaded aviation gas, fuels planes that have piston engines. In an attempt to move toward unleaded aviation gas, the EPA plans on banning or increasing regulation of leaded gas used in piston engine aircraft.

Planes using leaded aviation gas emit neurotoxins that interfere with brain development in children, according to research supported by the EPA.

Alaska Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Mark Begich are both in favor of transitioning away from avgas, but recognize that an immediate ban on the substance would greatly undermine Alaska's transportation economy. To that end, the senators are requesting that prior to outlawing the substance, the EPA or Federal Aviation Administration develop an unleaded fuel suitable for piston engines.

Last Thursday, Begich's office released a statement announcing that the senator had written a letter to the EPA expressing his concern over an immediate ban on avgas. In the letter, Alaska's junior senator points out that "when Alaskans in a remote village require medical treatment at a hospital, most frequently they travel to a larger community via piston engine aircraft." He also mentions "the vast majority of commercial aircraft in Alaska are smaller piston-driven aircraft, which use avgas." Begich asks the EPA to consequently "extend the comment period on this rulemaking to October 31, 2010," according to the press release. As of now, the deadline is Aug. 27, 2010.

Similarly, Murkowski's office released a statement explaining her stance that the EPA's ban "could ground planes using leaded gas" and therefore should not implement the law until the agency "develops an alternative to leaded gas." Murkowski also believes "that any alternative, when developed, should be tested in Alaska due to the unique climate challenges." The senator hopes that the EPA and the FAA will work together in developing an alternative fuel.

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Source: By Andrew Rubenstein. Originally published July 14, 2010