Biden administration ups the ante on clean energy

The Biden administration has this week taken several steps to advance clean energy deployment to achieve its climate goals, in a series of moves which could prove pivotal for emerging environmental risks.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is to review once more whether emissions from piston-engine aircraft operating on leaded fuel contribute pose a danger to public health.

A 2016 EPA report indicated piston-engine planes are the single largest airborne source of lead exposure.

Emissions from the 190,000 US general aviation airplanes operating on leaded fuel account for about 70% of the lead entering the atmosphere, according to US government estimates.

“EPA has been investigating the air quality impact of lead emissions from piston-engine aircraft near airports for years, and now we’re going to apply that information to determine whether this pollution endangers human health and welfare,” said EPA administrator Michael Regan in a statement.

The EPA said it was responding to several petitions including from the County of Santa Clara, California, and Middleton, Wisconsin. It plans to issue a proposal for public review and comment this year and take final action in 2023.

In 2006, the EPA received a petition asking for regulations of lead emissions from general aviation airplanes. The EPA opened a proceeding in 2010 to review the issue and in 2015 said it had planned to issue a final endangerment finding in 2018.

While levels of airborne lead in the United States have declined 99% since 1980, piston-engine aircraft are the largest remaining source of lead emissions into the air.

Children’s exposure to lead can cause irreversible and life-long health effects, the EPA said.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said it was also working on transitioning the airplanes to lead-free fuel.

“Achieving this requires that we find a solution that protects public health while also maintaining or enhancing safety for the general aviation fleet,” the FAA said, noting it was testing and evaluating high-octane unleaded aviation gasolines.

Offshore wind

On offshore wind, the administration announced that it will hold a lease sale in the New York Bight — off the coasts of New York and New Jersey. This lease sale could result in the generation of up to 7 gigawatts of clean energy, enough to power 2 million homes, according to a White House fact sheet.

The sale will offer six commercial areas for lease, which the administration says is the most ever offered, spanning 488,201 acres.

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said that the department expects to hold up to six more offshore wind lease sales by 2025.

“EPA has been investigating the air quality impact of lead emissions from piston-engine aircraft near airports for years, and now we’re going to apply that information to determine whether this pollution endangers human health and welfare,” said EPA administrator Michael Regan in a statement.

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