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January 19, 2023

Boulder County calls for regulation of leaded aviation gas and its dangerous impact on public health

Local Governments Support Proposed Environmental Protection Agency Regulation

small planes

Boulder County, Colo. -- On Tuesday (Jan. 17), the Boulder County Commissioners unanimously agreed to join Santa Clara County, California and other local governments from across the country in supporting the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed finding that leaded aviation gas endangers public health and welfare. In October 2022, the EPA published the proposed endangerment finding, and the opportunity for public comment is the first step in its potential regulation and phasing out of leaded aviation gas (as the EPA phased out leaded gasoline for cars and other on-road vehicles).

“Lead air pollution endangers public health and welfare,” said Commissioner Ashley Stolzmann. “We regularly hear from residents about air pollution from aviation and its dangerous impact on our community and specifically children’s health. Leaded aviation gas is a major source of air pollution in Boulder County and in communities across the United States. We applaud this move by the EPA and ask that they move quickly to regulate and ultimately phase out the use of leaded gas in aviation.”

Leaded aviation gas is primarily used by piston-engine aircraft, which are typically small aircraft that carry 2-10 passengers. These are the types of aircraft that use the airports located in and adjacent to Boulder County, such as the Boulder Municipal Airport, Vance Brand Municipal Airport, and Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport. According to the EPA, piston-engine aircraft are the largest single source of lead emissions to the air in the U.S. The emissions of lead from leaded aviation gas cause elevated levels of lead in air near airports, which in turn endanger public health.

The response to the EPA was drafted by Stanford Law School’s Environmental Law Clinic on behalf of Santa Clara County. Other signatories include: Bay Area Air Quality Management District; City of Oakland, CA; City and County of San Francisco, CA; City of Santa Monica, CA; City of South Bend, IN; City of Northampton, MA; County of Travis, TX; Town of Middleton, WI; and Washtenaw County Prosecutor’s Office, WI.

Visit the EPA website to find out more about leaded aviation gas and potential regulation.

Boulder County works to improve indoor and outdoor air quality and respond to the climate crisis through education, monitoring, and policy, and supports the use of renewable aviation fuel and other technology advances that reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Visit the county’s website for more information about air quality.

Collage of all three Boulder County Commissioners