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AOPA fights anti-airport bills in California

Proposed bills moving through the California Legislature would introduce a new aircraft registration program and affect the availability of avgas.

Photo by Mike Fizer.

As scheduled hearings approach, AOPA and aviation stakeholders are aggressively opposing these bills and educating representatives on the devastating effects they could have on the aviation industry in the state. Both bills would impact and punish general aviation operators by restricting and deterring aviation operations.

S.B.1193, introduced by state Sen. Caroline Menjivar (D-District 20), targets low lead fuel availability at California airports and would prohibit an airport from selling or distributing 100LL by 2026 with the intention to promote the sale and distribution of unleaded fuel. This extremely expedited timeline would have safety implications, not only for GA pilots who live in California, but for aircraft arriving from surrounding states.

AOPA, the FAA, fuel distributors, and aviation stakeholders are working diligently to find an unleaded fuel solution that will work for the entire GA fleet. The Eliminate Aviation Gasoline Lead Emissions (EAGLE) initiative, introduced in 2022, is singularly focused on a lead-free future for all piston-engine aircraft by 2030. However, the transition to an approved fuel needs to be safe and smart, and during this transition, low-lead avgas must remain available for the safety of pilots and the communities they fly over. AOPA cautions elected leaders against prohibiting the sale of 100LL to conform to a single political narrative, without a viable and commercially available alternative that safely meets the needs of the entire GA fleet including rotorcraft.

The other legislation coming down the runway is S.B.1505. Introduced by state Sen. Henry Stern (D-District 27), this measure would impose a new annual registration fee on California-based aircraft owners that the California Air Resources Board would use to tackle aircraft emission impacts in communities close to airports. None of the revenues received from this program would be provided to airports and the measure expressly exempts Part 121 and Part 135 (commercial and charter) operators—effectively placing the entirety of California’s aircraft emissions footprint on the back of GA pilots.

California officials have long sought to reduce aircraft operations by using the excuse that emissions from airplanes are harmful to the health of children that live near airports. Bad data has been cited in the past, and pro-aviation data has been concealed. A recent study published February 5 by the Los Angeles Department of Public Health and the California Department of Public Health at the request of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, found no conclusive evidence that children under 6 years old living within 1.5 miles of an airport were more likely to have elevated levels of lead in their blood compared to those living throughout the rest of Los Angeles County. The report continued, “Further, based on air sampling completed by [the South Coast Air Quality Management District] ambient lead concentrations near Whiteman were significantly lower than US EPA standards.”

Putting a financial burden on GA pilots because of misguided interpretations of emission impacts is unreasonable, especially when potential funds could be directed back into California’s aviation system, which has been missing out on over $50 million in federal funds over the past 5 years.

“California policymakers must prioritize aviation as a key driver of economic growth and a gateway to STEM careers for future generations," said Jared Yoshiki, AOPA Western Pacific regional manager. "Unfortunately, recent legislative actions are targeting the very industry that is building safe aviation technologies and innovating for the future. It's time for policymakers to recognize the true facts about the positive impacts of aviation on local communities and to reject any misguided narratives.”

Both bills have been referred to the California Senate Transportation Committee and hearings are anticipated this spring. AOPA will continue to hold conversations with state elected leaders and will build coalitions to showcase the value of the aviation industry and the negative effects on it should these bills progress.

Lillian Geil
Communications Specialist
Communications Specialist Lillian Geil is a student pilot and a graduate of Columbia University who joined AOPA in 2021.
Topics: Advocacy, State Legislation, Avgas

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