By Gary Keller
According to data from the EPA's National Emissions Inventory (NEI), general aviation (GA) piston-driven aircraft are responsible for 63 percent of all new lead emissions in the U.S. each year, amounting to an annual amount of 450 tons of discharged lead.
From that same database, it's reported that California has by far the most discharged lead of any state with 50 tons per year. Of 3,143 counties and county equivalents in the U.S., San Diego County is the third most lead-polluted county in the nation, just behind L.A. County at number two, with lead emissions from general aviation aircraft at 2.25 tons. Montgomery-Gibbs Executive Airport and Gillespie Field account for over half of San Diego County's lead emissions.
Until last year, there wasn't a single public health department in the nation that recognized piston-driven general aviation aircraft as a source of lead emissions, but that recently changed when the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), which has long maintained there is no "safe" level of lead in the body, added general aviation aircraft as a source of lead in the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention section of their website.
Also in 2019 the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) updated its standard care guidelines on childhood lead poisoning to include not only general aviation aircraft as sources of lead, but to advise parents and schools that children "not play near or spend time near these facilities."
Nevertheless, despite the slow, bureaucratic reaction of public health outlets, safer and more effective unleaded aviation fuel that can be used by two-thirds of general aviation airplanes has been on the market for several years, but many municipal airports won't supply it, and many pilots refuse to use it.
Particularly galling to California's lead poisoning prevention component of the CDPH is a Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention fee that businesses and polluters responsible for lead emissions pay into. Aircraft operators are expect from it. Established in 1993, the fund is intended to support "health care referrals, environmental assessments, and educational activities necessary to reduce a child's exposure to lead and the consequences of the exposure."
While lead smelting plants are responsible for one ton of lead emissions per year in California, general aviation accounts for 50 times that number. All of these aircraft are exempt from paying into the fund because they are federally regulated. The California Air Resources Board (CARB) has said there is nothing that they can do about it. Other states that have initiated a similar fee structure have found themselves stymied from the collection of funds from general aviation aircraf. In essence, the federal government gives local governments money via the EPA to eradicate old paint from pre-1978 housing, even as they give a "pass" to the 450 tons of NEW emissions from GA aircraft. This creates an exercise in futility.
At last count, San Diego County is home to 50 flight schools. All of these schools utilize aircraft that are powered by leaded AvGas, and they are also almost entirely attended by students who come to San Diego to take advantage of the region's abundant flight school opportunities in our flight-friendly climate. While these students may only live in San Diego for the short time they're attending flight school, they are forever polluting our region with lead emissions sanctioned by the federal government. Thus far, only the CDC and the California Department of Public Health are willing to warn residents and the public about it.
And then there's the environmental noise pollution that goes with it.
Gary Keller is a retired Chula Vista firefighter and long-time citizen activist on the negative impacts of general aviation in communities, and specifically the effects of lead pollution from aircraft.
Photo by Akihito Kato © 2010
By Mia Taylor
As a member of the San Diego Public Power Coalition, San Diego County Democrats for Environmental Action will participate in a press conference at 12 noon today to kick off the coalition's campaign for a public alternative to an investor-owned utility franchise in the city of San Diego.
For those who may not be familiar with the story, San Diego's utility franchise agreement with San Diego Gas and Electric (SDGE) expires this January. The next agreement the city signs with a provider will have broad and lasting ramifications, including exclusive rights to use San Diego's public roads, streets, and right-of-ways for transmission and distribution, as well as to install wires, poles, power lines, and underground gas and electric lines.
This is the first time in 50 years the city is renegotiating this important agreement, which means residents have a historic opportunity at this moment to set the terms of our energy future. And we need to do so before city leaders simply give it away in a manner far short of the true value of the franchise.
Public Power San Diego, an organization committed to promoting San Diego's transition to a publicly-owned, climate-aggressive, fully unionized, equitable electric and gas utility will host a press conference today (Friday, Aug. 21) at 12 noon in front of 101 Ash Street in Downtown, the notoriously uninhabitable building purchased by the city from Sempra Energy, the parent company of San Diego Gas and Electric.
Club president Cody Petterson will be among the speakers, and other board members will be in attendance. We encourage our members to join club leadership for a fully-masked, responsible, socially-distanced press conference to advance an environmentally and fiscally sound energy future for San Diego
Join us today (Friday) at 12 noon Downtown at 101 Ash Street.
Photo by Tommy Hough
By Cody Petterson
The California legislature has sat on AB-345 (fracking setbacks) long enough. Are we seriously still arguing about whether to physically separate oil and gas production from child-raising activities? Is that what we’re doing? Does anyone think if it were white kids living, playing, going to school next to oil wells, refineries, etc., we wouldn't have sorted it out on day one?
If it were affluent white families like mine who were suffering from elevated rates of birth defects, preterm births, fetal deaths, asthma, cancer, cardiovascular disease – all associated with residential proximity to oil and gas development – do you believe we wouldn't have imposed draconian setbacks long ago? Come on now.
Pass AB 345 already. Establish "a minimum setback distance between oil and gas activities and sensitive receptors such as schools, childcare facilities, playgrounds, residences, hospitals, and health clinics based on health, scientific, and other data." How is this even a debate?
Thank you to San Diego's Democratic assemblymembers for voting AB 345 off the floor of the Assembly. Thank you Assemblymembers Tasha Boerner Horvath (AD-76), Brian Maienschein (AD-77), Todd Gloria (AD-78), Shirley Weber (AD-79), Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher (AD-80).
Finally, I ask Senator Ben Hueso (SD-40) to vote the bill out of the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Water today and bring a measure of environmental justice to California's disproportionately burdened communities of color. If you live in California's 40th Senate District, I encourage you to call Senator Hueso's Sacramento office at (916) 651-4040 and ask him to do the same.
By Cody Petterson
We're still stunned, angry, and, frankly, disgusted that the franchise process is moving so quickly with no effort at, or opportunity for, public engagement.
A mere seven days elapsed from when the JVJ Pacific Consultings report and proposal was released to the public to when it was voted on by the Environment Committee, and another brisk three weeks from the Environment Committee to the full council. And this is all occurring in the midst of a global pandemic which already inhibits significant public participation.
A mere four weeks to debate how to give away our city's most valuable asset, an asset that provides San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E) with a million dollars of profit per day, straight from the budgets of working families to the cash-choked pockets of SDG&E shareholders. It's insane.
Who is representing San Diegans? And if our representatives aren't representing San Diego's 1.4 million residents and ratepayers, who are they representing? Who's sitting at the table in the community's seat?
We now have a week to let the mayor, council, and those who have taken the community's seat at the table know we won't accept another "San Diego Special," i.e. four weeks of backroom deals and you're good to go.
Please call your councilmember today and ask them to send the franchise resolution back to Environment Committee for the public process it deserves. Ask them to take the proposed agreement back to the communities they represent. Ask them to give meaningful consideration to the formation of a city-owned public utility, which promises democratic oversight, greater control over our transition to 100 percent renewable energy, and significant savings for ratepayers.
And beyond asking, call your councilmember today and TELL them two specific things:
District 1: Barbara Bry
District 2: Jennifer Campbell
District 3: Chris Ward
District 4: Monica Montgomery
District 5: Mark Kersey
District 6: Chris Cate
District 7: Scott Sherman
District 8: Vivian Moreno
District 9: Georgette Gómez
Click here to examine the city's current 50-year franchise agreement with San Diego Gas and Electric, dated Dec. 17, 1970.
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