Local Airplane Fueler Says New Regulations Would Put It Out of Business

By: Tim Ciesco Email
By: Tim Ciesco Email

A local airplane fueling business says it was fighting for its life working through proposed Grand Junction Regional Airport Regulations. Now it says new federal regulations have made the situation worse.

Betsy Kirschbaum has been operating her self-serve fuel business for private planes -- Aero Fuel --for three years near the end of the Grand Junction Regional Airport runway.

She says just when she and her partner were looking to expand and offer customers another type of fuel, the Grand Junction Regional Airport Authority decided it was time to update the regulations they had to comply with to stay there -- including standards that would set how much fuel she had to sell each month.

"The proposal they had in there was eighty-five hundred gallons, which would more than double our average month," said Kirschbaum.

She says the standards would not bode well for the future of her business.

"We'd be put out of business because we wouldn't meet that flow," said Kirschbaum.

She says if Aero Fuel went out of business, it would hurt more than just her. Because Aero Fuel is one of two fuel suppliers at the airport, she says the other supplier would be able to drive up prices, being the only option for Grand Junction pilots.

So Tuesday night, she and dozens of concerned pilots went to the Grand Junction Regional Airport Board meeting, where both they and board members hoped to reach a compromise on changing those standards.

"We're truly not trying to put anyone out of business," said Board Chairman John Stevens.

But they say new Transportation Security Administration security regulations they just learned about prevented discussions from happening.

"We were blind sighted," said Kirschbaum.

"This new TSA directive may just put a damper on the whole thing," said Stevens.

They say one of the regulations requires all self-serve pumps at commercial airports to have a security cleared attendant on site 24 / 7, who would have to escort any planes looking to get fuel.

"It will have a severe impact on us being able to come up with these minimum standards because we many not even be able to do a contract with anyone to do this," said Stevens.

Kirschbaum says it also completely changes how she would have to run her business, and would likely force her to shut down.

"I would have to hire four full-time employees to cover twenty-four seven," said Kirschbaum. "That's just not financially feasible."

Kirschbaum and the Airport Authority say they plan on meeting with TSA officials soon to discuss these new regulations.

"The rules, frankly in my opinion, don't make an awful lot of sense," said Stevens.

The board says it won't be able to take up the matter again until those discussions happen. Kirschbaum says it's unfortunate because she believes the Board would have been willing to compromise the airport's standards.

"It sounded like they were open to working with us to make it so we could operate our business," said Kirschbaum.

Both Aero Fuel and the Airport Authority are encouraging citizens to contact their U.S. Congressmen and Senators about overturning these new TSA regulations.

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