Environmentalists and noise pollution opponents in Washington, D.C., are hopeful that the City Council will vote on a bill this year to ban gas-powered leaf blowers.
Fall is in the air, and soon, the leaves will be on the ground. Then, Washington, D.C., residents and landscapers will get to work trying to get rid of the piles of leaves.
But if one D.C. city councilmember gets her way, gas-powered leaf blowers could soon become a thing of the past in the District.
Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh has introduced a bill that would completely ban these gasoline-powered leaf blowers. She originally tried to get this bill through committee last year, however, it never received an up or down vote. Though the D.C. City Council is busy, Cheh is cautiously hopeful that they will be able to fit a vote into the schedule. Though, given the inaction on the Council, that is not guaranteed.
They’re just not doing anything — nothing’s scheduled, nothing’s planned,” Cheh recently said in an interview. “I know we have lots of other stuff, and I would bet the chairman is almost singularly focused on how we’re going to pay for the paid leave bill. … And after we get past that, he probably has a number of other things to clean up.”
If enacted, Cheh's bill would require residents and landscapers to phase out their gas-powered leaf blowers by the year 2022. Currently, the legislation is being co-sponsored by Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie and Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen, as well as at-large members Anita Bonds and David Grosso. Mary Cheh also says she has significant support from the community as well.
It is already illegal in Washington, D.C., to use a leaf blower that is loud enough to produce 70 decibels of noise that can be heard from 50 feet away. That ban already includes many gas-powered leaf blowers, however, Cheh says that it often isn't enforced because the current law requires a police officer to stand 50 feet away and measure the noise with a decibel reader. Additionally, there have been cases where a gas-powered leaf blower's manufacturer mislabeled the decibel output of its product. The current statute does not allow for penalties if a gas-powered leaf blower ends up being louder than the manufacturer's own published specifications.
So, since the current ban on loud gas-powered leaf blowers isn't being enforced, she believes that it would be much easier and more effective to simply ban all gas-powered leaf blowers. Additionally, Councilmember Cheh's bill would take leaf blower enforcement away from the police and assign it to the District of Columbia Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs.
Not everyone is happy about the proposed rule change, however. Many D.C. residents have been using the same leaf blower for years and disagree that they should be forced to buy a new one to replace something that works fine, especially if their gas-powered leaf blower falls within the permitted decibel range. Electric leaf blowers also tend to be less portable, less powerful, and, if battery-powered, have a shorter run time than their gas-powered alternatives.
Environmental organizations have long tried to steer homeowners away from gas-powered tools -- especially those who live in cities -- as a way to cut down on pollution.
“I’m not saying it’s a solution to climate change or anything like that," Cheh admitted, "but it’s a step in the right direction.”
Right now, the D.C. City Council is so behind on its legislative calendar that there is no guarantee this bill will even be heard this year. If not, Cheh will re-introduce the measure again next year and keep pushing for it.
What do you think? Should the City Council really be working on this? Let us know in the comment section below!