Colorado lawmakers weigh bill to target 'aviation impacts' including noise issues, leaded fuel

Planes at Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport
Posted at 9:42 PM, Mar 06, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-07 01:24:28-05

DENVER — For years, many Colorado residents have called on their elected leaders at every level of government to act on the noise issues and leaded fuel related to Colorado’s local airports. Now, a group of Colorado legislators are sponsoring a bill to address the concerns.

House Bill 24-1235 has four Democratic prime sponsors and was the topic of testimony during a Transportation, Housing, & Local Government committee hearing Wednesday.

The bill, if passed, would unlock state grant money for local airports that are transitioning away from unleaded aviation gasoline and create a tax credit for plane owners who go through the expense of transitioning their planes to unleaded gas.

In addition, the bill would add two voting members to the Colorado Aeronautical Board, who would be residents selected from impacted neighborhoods near airports. They would play a role in overseeing aviation issues, including health concerns and ongoing noise complaints.

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During Wednesday’s committee meeting, dozens of concerned neighbors and representatives from Colorado’s aviation industry packed the room to listen and give testimony on the bill and its potential impacts. Two of its sponsors, Representatives Shannon Bird and Kyle Brown, opened remarks by saying Colorado’s aviation industry is vital but resident concerns must be addressed.

“I, in fact, had the opportunity recently to visit the Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport and was able to see firsthand the good work that they are doing,” Bird said. “Airports and the necessary activity they support must, however, respectfully and safely coexist with their neighbors.”

Denver7 went 360 on concerns over the use of leaded aviation fuel at the Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport last year. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states exposure to lead can have serious health impacts, especially in kids, and can include brain damage, slowed growth and development, and problems with learning, behavior, hearing and speech.

The bill faces opposition from some Republicans in the state legislature. Representative Don Wilson said he is concerned the bill would negatively impact young people going into the aviation industry who rely on Colorado’s smaller airports to start their careers. Wilson said he is open to amendments to the bill.

“This is the state stepping into an area that they really don’t have any authority,” Wilson said. “Our smaller area airports are regulated by the FAA. This bill wants to put stipulations and requirements on them that don’t necessarily work in conjunction with what the FAA requires. It talks about leaded fuel — a lot of the aviation industry is already working that way. We don’t need the state to step in and say, ‘Hey, we’re going to tax you more on that.’”

A “major amendment” to the bill was announced before testimony on Wednesday, which sponsors said clarified portions that could overlap with the FAA’s authority over airport activities.

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