Settlement Tackles Lead Pollution from Aviation Fuel

By Miki Barnes, LCSW
December 11, 2014

Congratulations to the Center for Environmental Health. As a result of this legal victory, fuel distribution companies in California will be required to provide non-leaded or lower level lead alternatives to leaded aviation fuel. In addition they will be “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.”

Legal Settlement Aims at Reducing Lead Poisoning Risks From California Airports

Avgas Companies at LAX, Oakland International Airport, John Wayne Airport and Others To Clean Up Lead-Tainted Fuel

Oakland, CA, December 10, 2014 – The Center for Environmental Health today 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

Toxic Pesticides Released During Aerial Spraying

Tiller, Oregon Residents Exposed to Aerial Spray Toxins

By Miki Barnes, LCSW
December 5, 2014

On 12/1/14, Tony Schick of Oregon Public Radio published a report entitled How One Complaint Reveals the Flaws in Oregon's Pesticide Regulations. The article discusses the concerns of impacted residents in Tiller, Oregon, who were exposed to toxic chemicals released during an aerial spraying activity in April of 2014. Shortly thereafter they began experiencing negative health symptoms. In addition, trees and plant life in the area were damaged.

Applebee Aviation Cited for Violating Aerial Pesticide Spray Regulations

According to the article, “On April 16, a helicopter sprayed the Seneca Jones Timber Company property with chemicals later found hundreds of feet off site...Seneca Jones hired Applebee Aviation to conduct the spraying.” Both Applebee and the pilot, Patrick Hall, were cited “each with two counts of violating Oregon law for allowing it to drift off target and over water. Hall and Applebee Aviation did not respond to interview requests. According to state documents, they described the application to investigators as routine.”

This is not the first time Applebee Aviation, located in Buxton, Oregon, has been involved in an accident linked with dangerous pesticides. In April of 2014, a 22 year old man died after a head on collision with a commercial truck driven by contractors from Applebee Aviation. At the time, the truck was transporting helicopter fuel and herbicides intended for aerial spraying on behalf of a Roseburg Forest Products project. Per a report from The World, “Several of the herbicide barrels fell off the truck, and the fuel leaked downhill towards the river...The Region 15 Hazardous Materials Team, based at the Coos Bay Fire Department, was dispatched to handle the chemical containment and cleanup.” For additional details see the report from KOIN News. Applebee Aviation has also been involved in a number of helicopter accidents some of which involved agricultural operations.[1]

In addition, the Washington Department of Agriculture website indicates that Luther Phillips from Applebee Aviation was fined $450 and his license was suspended for seven days for a June 2010 violation, “while making an herbicide application by helicopter to a forestry site in Clallam County, Phillips sprayed the wrong clear-cut and heavily damaged a two-year old western hemlock plantation.”

Pacific Air Research Aerial Spraying Incident Near Gold Beach

The issue of helicopter aerial spraying of herbicides was also in the news in October of 2013 when residents in Cedar Valley near Gold Beach reported negative health consequences including asthma attacks, hand swelling, skin rashes, headaches and stomach aches after aerial spray pesticides were released over their homes. In this case Steve Owen, the owner of Pacific Air Research, was cited and fined. See Southern Oregon Pesticide Case Highlights Gaps In State Oversight and EPA Fines Oregon Herbicide Applicator $1,500 for additional information regarding this incident.

Possible Legislative Solution

Fortunately, Senator Michael Dembrow who serves as Chair of the Senate Environmental and Natural Resources Committee and Rep Ann Lininger of Lake Oswego are in the process of drafting legislation to better protect Oregon residents from the dangers of toxic pesticide exposure and aerial spraying. Their efforts are discussed in an article by Tony Schick at Legislation In Works For Oregon Herbicide Spraying.


[1] Other helicopter accidents in aircraft registered to Applebee Aviation include the following. See National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) aviation query site for details:

  • On 7/23/14 a pilot died while involved in a helicopter agricultural operation in Wenatchee, Washington.
  • On 11/14/11 a pilot sustained serious injuries while loading Christmas trees in Woodburn, Oregon.
  • On 7/12/11 a helicopter crashed during an agricultural operation in Wenatchee, Washington.
  • On 6/23/10 a helicopter crashed during an aerial application flight in Rickreall, Oregon.
  • On 5/19/06 a helicopter with a flight instructor and student pilot on board sustained serious damage during a training flight at the Skyport Airpark, a private facility in Cornelius, Oregon.

Aviation and Increasing CO2 Emissions

Study on U.S. Airlines and Global Warming Shows That Aviation Emissions Are Continuing to Climb

By Miki Barnes, LCSW
November 24, 2014

The excerpt below is from a press release entitled Study: Airline Fuel Efficiency Grounded as Profits Soar: Huge Efficiency Gap Shows EPA Must Cut Aircraft Carbon Pollution. It was issued by the Center for Biological Diversity on 11/19/14 and can be accessed in full at the Center for Biological Diversity website . The study referred to, which was published by the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT), is available at the ICCT website.

“U.S. airlines posted a 5.7 percent profit margin in the first three quarters of this year. Meanwhile industry pollution is increasing: Aviation now accounts for about 11 percent of carbon dioxide emissions from the U.S. transportation sector, and those emissions are rising 3 percent to 5 percent every year. ‘Airlines are banking sizeable profits even as they simply ignore fuel efficiency and emit more carbon pollution,’ said Vera Pardee of the Center for Biological Diversity. ‘This report's disturbing findings leave the EPA no choice but to finally confront airplanes' escalating emissions. Until we get sensible federal regulations, we'll see more and more planet-warming pollution from this industry.’

If counted as a country, global aviation would have ranked seventh in terms of CO2 emissions in 2011, just after Germany. These already massive CO2 emissions rise every year and are projected to triple by 2050. The EPA announced two months ago that it has started a rulemaking process to determine whether American aircrafts' fast-growing carbon emissions endanger public health and welfare. The result of that process is a foregone conclusion: they do. The agency expects to issue a proposed finding by late April 2015, along with a notice describing international efforts to set aircraft carbon emission standards by 2016. Those efforts have stalled for decades.

The EPA action came one month after the Center for Biological Diversity and Friends of the Earth, which is represented by Earthjustice, filed a notice of intent to sue the agency for failing to reduce aircraft greenhouse gas pollution.”

U.S. Congressional Representatives Urge FAA to Reduce Aviation Noise Level Metric

By Miki Barnes, LCSW
September 17, 2014

Below is a press release regarding the efforts of several U.S. Congressional Representatives urging the FAA to reduce the aviation noise metric from the 65 DNL to 55 DNL. See U.S Representative Grace Meng's website for additional information.

To urge your U.S. Oregon Congressional Representative to address the adverse impacts of aviation noise on health and livability contact:
Representative Suzanne Bonamici (D - 01) ph 202-225-0855, fax 202-225-9497
Representative Greg Walden (R - 02) ph 202-225-6730, fax 202-225-5774
Representative Earl Blumenauer (D - 03) ph 202-225-4811, fax 202-225-8941
Representative Kurt Schrader (D - 05) ph 202-225-5711, fax 202-225-5699
Representative Peter De Fazio (D - 04) ph 202-225-6416

To search for your representative by zipcode click on FIND YOUR REP BY ZIP.

Sep 12, 2014
Press Release

WASHINGTON - U.S. Representatives Grace Meng (D-NY), Steve Israel (D-NY) and Mike Quigley (D-IL) today urged the head of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to change the national standard at which the agency determines acceptable levels of aircraft noise.

In a letter to FAA Administrator Michael Huerta, the lawmakers called for lowering the national noise level standard used to measure noise effects on individuals due to aviation activities. Reducing the current 65 decibel Day-Night Average Sound Level (DNL) to 55 DNL would help address concerns about excessive airplane noise. It would allow more residents to qualify for sound insulation programs and mitigate noise pollution in their homes. The change would also create the potential for further noise reduction improvements by the FAA in the future.

The 65 DNL has been in place since the 1970s when air traffic volume was far lower than it is today. The representatives contend the outdated metric no longer meets the needs of their communities because it does not accurately reflect the daily reality of noise pollution they face.

“The constant barrage of airplane noise over my district in Queens, New York continues to ruin the quality of life of my constituents,” said Meng. “Time and again, the FAA has carelessly ignored the needs and concerns of the communities I represent by doing virtually nothing to address the problem of increased aircraft noise. That is why it's time to take this fight to the national level, and demanding a lower DNL is the best approach to securing relief from the blistering airplane noise that has plagued our area for far too long.”

“Airplane noise is having a significant negative impact on the quality of life of too many of my constituents in Queens and Nassau County, and I know the problem isn't just confined to my district,” said Israel. “That's why I'm joining colleagues from across the country who also have constituents suffering to call on the FAA to change the national standard at which the agency determines an acceptable level of noise from aircraft. It's time for the FAA to listen to the needs of our constituents and our communities, and we will continue fighting until they do so.”

“My constituents back home in Chicago are facing unprecedented noise pollution that is eroding their quality of life and impacting their health,” said Quigley. “Our residents can't get a decent night's sleep or even enjoy quality time outside with their children. These are families, not statistics, and they deserve a national standard that properly addresses the unacceptable amount of noise pollution they've come to experience day in and day out.”

A copy of the letter, which is signed by 23 other members of Congress, is below. DNL is the metric that the FAA uses to measure aircraft noise.

September 12, 2014

Michael P. Huerta
Federal Aviation Administration
800 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, D.C. 20591

Dear Administrator Huerta:

As Members of Congress who represent thousands of constituents negatively affected by airplane noise, we write to express our disappointment in the lack of progress on the part of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to address growing noise pollution in our districts and the negative effects noise pollution has on the health, well-being, and property values of our constituents. Rather than addressing this issue piecemeal in fragmented areas of the nation, we believe it is time for the FAA to tackle this issue on a national level by changing the standard by which it determines acceptable noise pollution. The current 65 decibel Day-Night Average Sound Level (DNL) metric is outdated and disconnected from the real impact that air traffic noise is having on our constituents and should be lowered to a more reasonable standard of 55 decibel DNL.

Although we represent different airports with unique regulations and operating procedures, we are united in our call for lowering the current 65 DNL metric. We believe the 65 DNL, which has been in place since the late 1970s, is no longer a reliable measure of the true impact of aircraft noise. Since the 65 DNL was instituted by the FAA in its Aviation Noise Abatement Policy of 1976, airplane traffic has increased dramatically and will continue to do so over the next two decades. The FAA's own Aerospace Forecast projects that revenue passenger miles­the standard for measuring commercial air traffic volume­will nearly double over the next twenty years. Similarly, the number of operations at FAA and contract towers is expected to increase by more than 45 percent from current levels.

It is not just our communities that question the FAA's use of the 65 DNL. Support for a lower DNL standard, specifically 55 DNL, originates from a 1974 report from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that was the beginning of a long line of studies - and a recent flurry of complaints - that support the need to lower the FAA's DNL standard. The FAA's use of 65 DNL may be based upon severe and immediate health impacts, but it is essential the FAA consider quality of life, long-term health impacts, home values and overall economic impact. As such, we urge the FAA to expedite its ongoing four-year-long review of the 65 DNL metric and institute overdue and much needed changes. Telling constituents that the FAA's study is not near completion after five years offers them cold comfort when jet noise is blanketing their communities.

We also urge the FAA to utilize Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) technologies to minimize airplane noise. NextGen technologies offer incredible benefits when used correctly including increased safety and efficiency in air travel for the airline industry and its passengers. However, it appears that the FAA has not fully considered the consequences of NextGen's implementation on airplane noise levels. It is imperative that the FAA properly balance emission and noise concerns. This includes variations of daily flight routes, continuous descent approaches, and rapid ascents. We have seen success using continuous descent in some areas and hope you will institute a national policy to improve the NextGen implementation, with an emphasis on reaching 55 DNL nationally.

We understand that air travel is a key component of the U.S. economy, and we appreciate that commercial aircraft are quieter than ever. However, each day many of our constituents are subjected to unreasonable levels of airplane noise. Economic growth­and efficient, safe air travel­should not be incompatible with vibrant, livable neighborhoods. By lowering its DNL standard, the FAA will greatly improve the lives of our constituents. We stand ready to assist you in achieving this goal, and ask you to inform us how we can help you in this task.

We look forward to your response and thank you in advance for working to achieve this important goal.


GRACE MENG, Member of Congress
STEVE ISRAEL, Member of Congress
MIKE QUIGLEY, Member of Congress

A copy of the letter signed by 26 U.S. Congressional Representatives is available at

Attorney for Oregon Aviation Watch Files Opening Brief in U.S. 9th Circuit Court

By Miki Barnes, LCSW
August 18, 2014

In its ongoing quest for consideration of the local community and accountability in the proposed expansion of Hillsboro Airport, Oregon Aviation Watch has filed its opening brief in its latest appeal.

In keeping with their characteristically cavalier attitude towards using public money to promote private business interests at the Hillsboro Airport (HIO), the Port of Portland (Port) began constructing a third runway in early August. The purpose of the runway is to accommodate flight training primarily on behalf of Hillsboro Aviation - a company that recruits students from around the globe then proceeds to train them over our homes and neighborhoods. Recreational pilots are also major beneficiaries of this arrangement.

The more than $17 million lavished on the Port to cover the costs of this expansion are publicly subsidized in large part with Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) funds and ConnectOregon handouts.

Earlier this summer, Oregon Aviation Watch filed a motion for an injunction pending a decision on the merits of the case so that the case could be reviewed by the court prior to construction. Unfortunately, our petition was denied. Needless to say, we were extremely disappointed by this ruling.

Nonetheless, after careful deliberation and in light of a recent outpouring of contributions from the community in response to our 7/31/14 email fundraising request, Oregon Aviation Watch has decided to move forward with the challenge to the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) conclusion that adding a third runway at the Hillsboro Airport will have no significant impact on the human environment.

Though we fell short of our $9,000 goal, the contributions received so far have bolstered our confidence in our ability to raise enough money to cover legal expenses. Sean Malone, Attorney for Oregon Aviation Watch, submitted our opening brief on 8/11/14.

Oregon Aviation Watch is urging the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to require an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) prior to moving forward with this project. In the 84 years, during which HIO has grown from a grassy airstrip into the largest general aviation airport in the state, the Port of Portland has never taken a hard look nor has it engaged in a thorough and comprehensive investigation into the environmental impacts of this facility.

We are sincerely grateful to all community members who have supported Oregon Aviation Watch and other airport appeals in the past. Your willingness to stand behind this effort is sincerely appreciated and your words of encouragement along the way have been invaluable.

We still need to raise additional money. This is an all volunteer effort. All contributions go directly towards covering legal costs. Click here to donate. Thank you for your support!

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