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Editorial Advisory Board: It’s time to advance leaf-blower bill

Maryland House Bill 934, phasing out the sale and use of gas-powered leaf blowers in Maryland, was pulled by its sponsors in the last legislative session. There was opposition to the bill from neighborhood associations and trade associations, who agreed to meet with the bill’s sponsors over the summer to talk about a rebate program to support a transition.

We want to see a version of the bill reintroduced this session, but we believe a reasonable time for businesses to transition from gas to electric would be appropriate, given the large number of landscape companies doing business in Maryland. We also believe that larger, rural, properties should be excepted from the ban until such time as battery technology and cost make electric blowers feasible.

Banning these noisy, intrusive machines is not novel in Maryland; the Montgomery Council introduced legislation in June that would ban gas leaf blowers.

More than 170 cities, towns and states across the country including those in Colorado, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Texas and Vermont have imposed complete or partial bans on gas leaf blowers.  California has enacted a law that will phase out gas leaf blowers and other gas powered lawn equipment. The District of Columbia banned these noisy and dirty devices as of Jan. 1, 2022. In some jurisdictions, a ban encompasses use during certain times, for example before 7 a.m. and after 7 p.m.

In New York State, two bills are pending that would impose statewide bans. The reason for these bans are threefold: chemical emissions, noise and particulate pollution.  According to the California Environmental Protection Agency, operating a commercial leaf blower with a 2-stroke engine in use for only an hour emits more pollutants than driving a 2016 Toyota Camry 1,100 miles!

Gas leaf blowers are noisy and intrude on peace and quiet. They typically operate for hours between 70-100 decibels; that’s in the range of a nearby helicopter. Exposure to noises above 85 decibels will damage hearing.

And, they push dirt and dust at over 200 miles per hour into the air, eroding soil and habitats and spreading disease-causing mold and fecal matter. Newer electric leaf blowers operate under 60 decibels, and while electric leaf blowers won’t cure the problem of particulate pollution, they will mitigate noise pollution and end harmful emissions.

Maryland has protected the waterways by regulating the sorts of lawn fertilizer that are allowed, and the months in which it can be put down.  Baltimore has protected the environment by imposing restrictions on plastic bags.

We urge the Maryland legislature, and the governing councils of the various subdivisions, to protect our ears and peace, and act now, subject to the provisos earlier set forth, to ban the sale of gas-powered leaf blowers and phase out their use.  That would be good for almost everyone.

Editorial Advisory Board members Arthur F. Fergenson and Julie C. Janofsky did not participate in this opinion.

EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD MEMBERS

James B. Astrachan, Chair

James K. Archibald

Gary E. Bair

Andre M. Davis

Eric Easton

Arthur F. Fergenson

Nancy Forster

Susan Francis

Leigh Goodmark

Roland Harris

Julie C. Janofsky

Ericka N. King

Susan F. Martielli

Angela W. Russell

Debra G. Schubert

H. Mark Stichel

The Daily Record Editorial Advisory Board is composed of members of the legal profession who serve voluntarily and are independent of The Daily Record. Through their ongoing exchange of views, members of the board attempt to develop consensus on issues of importance to the bench, bar and public. When their minds meet, unsigned opinions will result. When they differ, or if a conflict exists, majority views and the names of members who do not participate will appear. Members of the community are invited to contribute letters to the editor and/or columns about opinions expressed by the Editorial Advisory Board.