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AReCO in the News

Source: Clean Air Report via


Date: July 29, 2004

Issue: Vol. 15, No. 16

Copyright © Inside Washington Publishers


Despite new ambient rules




EPA will not set fine particulate matter (PM2.5) standards for aircraft any time soon, despite the fact that communities will need to find ways to reduce PM2.5 emissions after new ambient air quality standards take effect next April even though airliners may be a significant source of the pollutant, agency sources say.

EPA sources say the problem with setting standards is twofold: there is no way to accurately measure aircraft PM2.5 emissions and there is no way to attach after-treatment devices to reduce pollution from aircraft engines.

But those issues have not stopped calls from environmentalists to address PM2.5 from aircraft. Activists are appealing both to EPA, which has the authority to set such Standards, and to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which would enforce them.

In a July 6 letter to FAA, the Alliance of Residents Concerning O’Hare (AReCO) -- a Chicago-based group that opposes the airport’s planned expansion -- petitioned that agency to set PM2.5 standards for aircraft.

It cited a recent American Heart Association study linking PM2.5 exposure to cardiovascular disease for the first time (Clean Air Report, June 17, p22) as a reason to put more urgency into setting such a standard.

“The FAA and USEPA will be derelict in their duties to protect the public health without a full and complete vetting of the PM impact issues associated with O’Hare’s proposed expansion, and claims that such PM characterizations are not possible or are not within current legal mandates,” AReCO says. The letter is available on

The group also wants pollution from airports to be considered as one integrated “bubble” rather than separate polluting elements. “This has the effect that each of the parts might be meeting the related pollution requirement but the whole (the ‘bubble’) is still badly unacceptable,” the letter continues.

An FAA source in the agency’s Great Lakes office says FAA would consider PM2.5 now if it received guidance on the matter from EPA. The source adds that FAA will comply with whatever EPA decides on PM2.5, either now through guidance or in the future through regulation. The office is working on a draft environmental impact statement for the O’Hare expansion expected to be complete in a year.

An EPA Region V source says the agency plans to ask FAA to study PM2.5 emissions at the airport when it reviews and comments on an draft environmental impact statement expected early next year.

In the meantime, EPA sources say they are working with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) to develop a PM2.5 test procedure, and then will go forward from there.

A source with the agency’s Office of Research & Development (ORD), which is leading the agency’s efforts on test procedures, says the agency is charged with completing a study to be delivered to the Office of Air & Radiation sometime in 2005, according to ORD’s annual performance measures document. The study will include improved PM emission factors and compositional profiles for commercial jet aircraft engines, according to the document.

But the ORD source was unable to verify whether such a study has begun or whether any funding has been allocated.

A third EPA source says the agency continues to work with ICAO and SAE as an advisor to FAA, which is taking the lead in the international talks, but the source admits it is a slow process that probably will not result in a PM2.5 standard until after 2010.

However, the source adds there are mechanisms at this time to at least estimate PM2.5 emissions from aircraft, though that information is old. The estimates are contained in EPA’s AP-42 database of emission factors and based on engines from the 1970s and ’80s.

Since after-treatment devices are unlikely, any PM2.5 standard would likely focus on changing the fuel mix in the aircraft’s combustion chamber to reduce the sulfur content, the source explains.

Jet fuel already has test specifications for sulfur content that are also set by the ICAO. If the United States wanted to do something to reduce sulfur beyond ICAO standards, the EPA source says, FAA is the agency that has the authority.

AReCO complains that ICAO is “dominated by aviation interests,” which precludes it from “an aggressive pursuit of adequate PM emissions characterization and standard setting,” according to the group’s letter.

A fourth EPA source says in light of the new PM2.5 standards taking effect, there are other airport pollution sources local communities can address, such as ground equipment, taxis, buses and other airport transportation vehicles.

But an AReCO source says that is not enough. The July 6 petition to FAA to act on PM2.5 was the second time the group had raised the issue. It also included the request in 2002 comments on a draft environmental study of the O’Hare expansion, but the source adds FAA has not yet responded.

“PM2.5 will be in [state implementation plans] in nine or 10 counties around O’Hare. They will have to reduce other emissions [to offset] all the aircraft emission. They can’t do anything about airports, but 5.5 million people are significantly affected by this airport,” the source says. Addressing PM2.5 emissions “should absolutely be more of a priority.”