National bills may force Santa Clara County regional airports to sell leaded fuel again

Dustin Dorsey Image
Tuesday, December 12, 2023
Leaded fuel may return to Santa Clara Co. airports due to new bills
National bills may force Santa Clara County regional airports to sell leaded fuel again despite the known health risk to surrounding neighborhoods.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- New bills would make leaded fuel sales mandatory at all public airports despite the known health risk to surrounding neighborhoods.

Santa Clara County banned leaded aviation fuel known as avgas due to its known threat to the environment and the community surrounding Reid-Hillview and other regional airports.

But now, the national decision may reverse the ban and neighbors say it puts our community at risk.

"This is a personal challenge for me, a very difficult topic," Reid-Hillview Airport neighborhood activist Marcela Lechuga said. "I would feel very disillusioned if they were able to force us to sell leaded fuel because it would be a huge step backward."

Two bills in the senate and house would require avgas sales to be mandatory at all public airports.

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Even at Santa Clara County airports, which stopped selling the harmful fuel as of Jan. 2022.

Supervisor Cindy Chavez aims to stop national lawmakers from reversing the county's work.

"I'm asking the Santa Clara County administration to continue working at the federal level to stop attempts of the federal government to make leaded fuel mandatory," Chavez said.

To help do that, the referral from Supervisor Chavez calls for county staff to continue lobbying for unleaded fuel availability nationwide to create an easier pipeline and transition away from avgas.

It would also push forward planning efforts for a reimagined Reid-Hillview site once the airport closes in 2031.

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"We in this community will not go back," Chavez said. "We do not want our children poisoned by lead or our communities poisoned by lead."

Aviation expert Walter Gyger says pilots recognize that unleaded fuel is a better option for the environment and for planes.

But he believes until unleaded fuel is widely available and compatible with all aircrafts, avgas must be sold.

"It makes absolutely no sense to leave a number of airplanes stranded without the availability of leaded fuel," Gyger said. "It's a small number, agreed, but it just creates a lot of problems."

The board of supervisors will vote on the referral on Tuesday.

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