Like so many freshly fallen leaves, new restrictions on gasoline-powered landscaping equipment cover the nation.
Washington, DC, has ushered in the new year by implementing a ban on gasoline leaf blowers the city passed in 2018. As of January 1, landscaping companies and lawn care enthusiasts are alike. now liable to a fine of $ 500 for using gasoline blowers in the city.
A few weeks earlier, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) – the state’s primary air pollution regulator –voted for the ban the sale of leaf blowers and gasoline lawn mowers starting in 2024.
CARB’s decision does not preclude the use of gasoline-powered landscaping devices. But a growing number of cities across the state, including places like Oakland and Hayward, are going this mile passing municipal bans last year.
Critics of leaf blowers argue that their noise and harmful emissions far outweigh the convenience they add to tidying up lawns and cleaning sidewalks.
“I hear people all the time talking about the nuisance and noise that is created. This prevents them from working and it prevents them from enjoying the peace in their own home. noted DC City Council member Mary Cheh at a 2018 hearing on the city’s then proposed leaf blower ban.
A DC City Council report As of this year, said 170 municipalities are restricting or banning gasoline leaf blowers, and that list is only growing. At least 60 California municipalities have adopted restrictions on these machines as of 2020.
This crusade for quieter neighborhoods produces exceptionally broad written policies.
Take Princeton, New Jersey. In October 2021, the city pass an ordinance prohibiting the use of “noisy gasoline-powered equipment, blowers, fans, or internal combustion engines” in the early mornings and evenings, Sundays, Christmas, Thanksgiving, New Years, and July 4 (lest leaf blowers compete with the sound of booming fireworks). During the summer and winter months, gasoline leaf blowers cannot be used in Princeton at all.
This inclusion of “internal combustion engines” has made a few posters on Twitter question whether Princeton has accidentally banned traditional gasoline-powered cars as well.
I was just reading the new Princeton City Leaf Blower Ordinance, and I think it may have been written so broadly that it * actually * banned cars * after 8 p.m. and Sunday mornings … (1/3)
– Central NJ Yimby ????????????????? (@YIMBY_Princeton) December 30, 2021
What a great exercise in interpreting the law. The Supreme Court would endeavor to try to answer it. (I think the thread’s conclusion is wrong, fwiw.) https://t.co/jNUJQ6q0MX
– David L. Noll (@davidlnoll) December 31, 2021
“I can see why some might read it that way, but Princeton’s new leaf blower ordinance does not ban internal combustion cars,” writes Gregory Shill, a professor at the University of Iowa College of Law, in an email.
Shill tells Raison that because the general purpose of the city ordinance relates to the regulation of landscaping equipment, the legal principle of “ejusdem generis” means that the catch-all phrase on “internal combustion engines” should not not be interpreted as limiting the use of literally all gasoline engines in the city.
“In summary, this is good news for the people of Princeton who were worried about their gasoline cars,” he said.
Nonetheless, these more limited restrictions are causing overbroad complaints from the landscaping industry, which says the emissions-free electric leaf blowers to which they are moved are not adequate substitutes.
An industry representative cited by the Los Angeles Times noted that a three-person landscaping crew would need to carry 30-40 fully charged batteries to power their equipment for a full day’s work.
A city government of DC report note that most battery-powered leaf blowers can only run for about 10 to 15 minutes at full power (or an hour at lower power settings) and corded leaf blowers often did not have the range needed for commercial scale landscaping.
“Although excellent for home use, the electric blowers on the market today do not have sufficient horsepower or life to replace gasoline engines for professional use,” said Bob Mann, a representative for National Association of Landscape Professionals, to DC City Council when considering its ban.
In addition to the burdens on businesses, bans on gasoline leaf blowers also come at a more visceral cost.
As I wrote in 2020, “a well-manicured lawn, maintained by noisy and energy-consuming machines, has long been a symbol of freedom, prosperity and the American dream.”
Clearly, policymakers are increasingly willing to sacrifice this part of the American dream for a little more domestic tranquility at street level.