LOS ANGELES – In their first meeting of the New Year on Jan. 25, members of the commission responsible for oversight of the five county-owned airports received instruction from the Board of Supervisors to take an action in support of an environmental movement to ban the use of leaded aviation gas.
The instruction adopted by supervisors was delivered by representatives of the Aviation Division of the Department of Public Works, which manages the general aviation airports. And coming at the organizational meeting with new chair Christena Pascucci holding the gavel, and new commissioner Justine Johnson in her first meeting, the commission reacted with surprise and many questions about what implementing the supervisors’ intentions could do to harm general aviation, not just at embattled Whiteman Airport, but countywide and nationally.
In 2022, supervisors tasked the commissioners to assist in fact-finding to engage the Federal Aviation Administration in expediting closure of Whiteman.
Pascucci and other commissioners quickly deduced the unintended consequences should Los Angeles County lead a radically based environmental parade as a means to shut down controversial Whiteman by getting the Environmental Protection Agency to declare use of leaded fuel in aircraft a human health hazard.
The poison pill in the plan, commissioners pointed out, is that unleaded aviation gasoline is still in the early stages of formulation and testing. Airports Division executive Jason Morgan said, “There is no viable replacement.”
Other commissioners, and members of the public who spoke online at the 10 a.m. virtual meeting said the real hazard to human life would be pushing rules and regulations ahead of scientific reality of the science. At present, only a handful of lead-free fuels are being tested, but not compared for compatibility in aircraft using different blends from different airports. That was cited as a critical safety issue.
Supervisor Kathryn Barger, LA County 5th Supervisorial District, although unavailable for an interview, said through a spokesperson on Jan. 26, “The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to direct the Interim County Counsel to send a five-signature letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to pursue eliminating lead from aviation gasoline. I remain a firm supporter of the county’s regional airports, including William J. Fox Airfield in my District. I believe we can continue to support the aviation industry while pursuing safer and cleaner fuel types.”
For clarification, Barger’s communications director said in response to a question suggesting, “the Board of supervisors has asked execs from the Department of Public Works on the Aviation Division to facilitate the suggestion from Pacoima Beautiful that leaded aircraft fuel be banned.”
The clarification points were:
* The Board took action as a result of a motion that came from Supervisor Hilda Solis, LA County 1st Supervisorial District.
* The motion directed County Counsel to send a five-signature letter to the U.S. EPA to eliminate lead from aviation gasoline and supporting EPA’s strong endangerment finding on leaded aviation gasoline.
* The Department of Public Works — to Barger’s team knowledge — does not have any role in this matter.