​Can’t we just ban leaded fuel and regulate the noise and all get along?

The FAA prohibits Boulder from imposing any restrictions on aviation operations, which means we can’t ban leaded fuel or regulate noise. Voluntary measures to curb noise and lead pollution are ineffective.

The FAA message to Boulder is that we are not allowed to impose any restrictions on airport operations. This includes prohibiting us from banning leaded aviation fuel or regulating noise levels.   

Boulder has accepted millions of dollars in FAA grants over the years. We continue to seek and accept hundreds of thousands of dollars in FAA grants every few years for capital improvement projects such as repaving runways. These grants come with strings attached including giving up local control. The FAA demands include: airports must be open to take-offs and landings 24/7; we may not ban any type of aircraft operations; we must continue to sell leaded aviation fuel, even if unleaded fuel is also offered at the airport; and we cannot do anything to regulate aviation noise. The FAA only allows voluntary measures, and these voluntary measures have proven to be entirely ineffective.

Other airports are experimenting with defying these FAA mandates. It remains to be seen what the FAA might do in retaliation, such as legal challenges or fines.