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FAA investigating local 100LL ban at two California airports

The FAA is investigating a California county's move to ban 100LL aircraft fuel at two airports at the start of the new year, saying the move is a potential violation of conditions to receive federal money.A letter dated Dec. 22, addressed to the Santa Clara County airports administration, says the FAA has received multiple complaints from airport tenants and users, alleging violations of grant assurances at the Reid-Hillview Airport (RHV) and San Martin Airport (E16).The complaints come after county leaders voted earlier this month to ban the sale of leaded fuel at the airports. In August, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to find a way to end the sale of leaded fuel at the airports "by any means," including the closure of the airport. According to the San Jose Spotlight, the earliest the airports could close is 2031, due to a federal lease agreement. County supervisors have said they will petition the FAA to allow them to move that date up. The FAA wants the county to respond to its investigation by Jan. 11, which the agency expedited from the normal 30-day timeframe for a response, because of the impact of a fuel ban and because the county is allegedly refusing to renew tenant leases that expire after the end of 2021, including for FBOs. "The FAA is committed to building a sustainable aviation system and a lead-free future, and the agency will work with the county to achieve this shared goal," the letter states. "However, in the interim, all parties must adhere to grant assurances." The agency says both airports have been financed in part under the Airport and Airway Improvement Act of 1982, and that between 1983 and 2011 the county received $6.8 million in federal aid for the airports, along with $4.6 million for the San Martin airport, and that the grant conditions prevent the county from limiting businesses to provide aviation-related services, including fueling. Santa Clara County leaders said they based their vote on a study that showed elevated lead levels in children living near the airport. Those levels were in line with levels seen in children across California. An attorney representing businesses at the airports has filed a request seeking an exemption to the ban until approved unleaded fuels can be made available. Aviation groups including the AOPA and NBAA have called on the FAA to investigate the 100LL ban. The groups support the removal of lead from aviation fuel but say moves like the one in Santa Clara County could result in aircraft misfuelling, potentially ending in disaster. "Unlike automobiles, if an aircraft has engine trouble, it cannot simply pull over to the side of the road," the aviation groups said in a joint letter earlier this month. "The automobile industry took time to safely transition to unleaded fuels and was successful, and the aviation industry must do the same."
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