Santa Clara County officers and advocates are rejoicing because the federal authorities agrees to reassess using leaded aviation gasoline nationwide.
Throughout a information convention Wednesday, County Counsel James Williams introduced the Environmental Safety Company authorized a petition from the county and a number of other environmental organizations to guage whether or not leaded gasoline utilized by airplanes is a risk to public well being and welfare. Leaded gasoline for vehicles was banned within the U.S. greater than twenty years in the past, however it’s nonetheless utilized by some airplanes, together with these on the Reid-Hillview and San Martin airports in Santa Clara County.
“At the moment is a landmark milestone within the lengthy effort to ban leaded aviation gasoline,” Williams mentioned.
The EPA will concern an “endangerment discovering” later this 12 months for public evaluate, after which make a last discovering in 2023. This discovering would probably permit the EPA to take motion underneath the Clear Air Act to curb using leaded aviation gasoline.
A coalition of environmental teams joined the county in its petition, together with Pals of the Earth. Program Director Marcie Keever mentioned her group has spent nearly 20 years making an attempt to eliminate leaded aviation gasoline, together with submitting a number of petitions and a lawsuit in opposition to the federal authorities in 2012.
“We’ve identified for greater than 20 years there isn’t any secure degree of lead,” Keever mentioned. “It is a great first step.”
As a result of federal motion could take years to enter impact, Santa Clara County determined to ban leaded gasoline efficient Jan. 1. To justify its urgency, the county pointed to a examine it launched final 12 months that discovered elevated ranges of lead within the blood of kids who reside close to Reid-Hillview Airport.
San Jose Congressman Ro Khanna applauded the EPA’s determination, citing the county’s lead examine as proof of the pressing want for motion.
“Placing a cease to air pollution from piston-engine planes is an environmental justice and public well being concern,” Khanna mentioned in an announcement.
Local people leaders say the lead ban helps right historic environmental racism that has East San Jose for many years. Maricela Lechuga, an lawyer and neighborhood chief with Cassell, mentioned the shortage of political illustration in East San Jose till the Nineteen Eighties led to airports being positioned in low-income neighborhoods predominantly populated by immigrants and Latinos.
“It’s not a coincidence that neighborhoods like Rose Backyard obtained a rose backyard and we obtained a lead backyard,” Lechuga mentioned.
The ban triggered complaints from teams just like the Plane House owners and Pilots Affiliation who’re involved it may trigger issues fueling plane and lead to engine failures. Extra not too long ago, the Federal Aviation Administration introduced it was initiating an investigation to find out if Santa Clara County violated any company guidelines by ending the sale of leaded gasoline.
Supervisor Cindy Chavez, whose district comprises Reid-Hillview, mentioned county officers have been assembly with the FAA for a very long time, and each businesses have a task to play in resolving the leaded gasoline concern.
“My expectation is for the EPA and the FAA to maneuver as if their kids’s lives relied on it,” Chavez mentioned.
Chavez and county officers have labored for a number of years to shut the greater than 80-year-old Reid-Hillview Airport, citing declining income and numerous security and well being considerations. In 2018, the county didn’t apply for a grant from the FAA to fund the airport’s upkeep as a result of it will have required preserving the airport open for one more 20 years. In November 2020, the Board of Supervisors voted on plans to repurpose the 180-acre airport for inexpensive housing.
A essential turning level occurred final 12 months after a county examine discovered barely elevated blood lead ranges in hundreds of kids dwelling close to Reid-Hillview Airport. There are 21 colleges and childcare facilities close to the airport. The county has famous even small lead ranges can have extreme impacts on childhood improvement. The examine led the Board of Supervisors to finish the sale of leaded gasoline at its two airports.
A survey final 12 months discovered a majority of San Jose residents oppose closing Reid-Hillview Airport. The San Martin Neighborhood Alliance and different native advocates need the county to contemplate preserving Reid-Hillview open for planes used to combat wildfires and conduct rescue efforts throughout pure disasters—along with stopping the diversion of air visitors from Reid-Hillview to San Martin Airport.
Contact Eli Wolfe at [email protected] or @EliWolfe4 on Twitter.