|Dr. Gilbert Kombe|
Here's my comment, currently awaiting moderation.
Thanks for the coverage of the discussion of the TFEA report. As the person who wrote the report's air quality chapter, there are a few things I'd like to point out.
1) The leaf blower ban proposal actually advanced slightly. The city council agreed by consensus that Takoma Park should phase out the use of blowers in our parks and rights of way. I have confirmed this with City Manager Barbara Matthews. I hope the council seriously considers a seasonal ban, especially when they take into account the heat wave we had this summer.
2) The city manager was, unfortunately, incorrect when she said that state law prohibits idling only when the car is unoccupied. In fact, state law prohibits drivers from ever leaving their cars running and unattended. The five-minute rule has nothing to do with occupancy. Text is below for both laws.
§ 21-1101. Unattended motor vehicle.
(a) Duty of driver upon leaving unattended vehicle.- Except as provided in subsection (c) of this section, a person driving or otherwise in charge of a motor vehicle may not leave it unattended until the engine is stopped, the ignition locked, the key removed, and the brake effectively set.
The transportation code also says "A motor vehicle engine may not be allowed to operate for more than 5 consecutive minutes when the vehicle is not in motion." There are some exceptions, of course (when you're stuck in traffic, for example, you can keep your engine on as long as you want).
http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/mcgtmpl.asp?url=/content/dgs/fms/news.asp mentions Montgomery County's anti-idling policy for its fleet of vehicles
From the TFEA report: "A recent paper estimates that idling makes up 1.6 percent of all CO2 emissions nationwide--a small percentage but a big impact: 93 million metric tons (MMT) of CO2 and 10.6 billion gallons of gasoline per year. In fact, reducing idling by one minute would eliminate 8 MMt of CO2 a year." (that's 8 million metric tons)
3) You write, "An officer would have to observe [the idling] happening for a certain number of minutes - not the most efficient use of a police officer's time."
You need to look at the TFEA report again. It recommends "zero tolerance," given that idling for more than 10 seconds is a waste of gasoline. Pressed for a time limit, the report suggested that the limit be 1 minute, but officers currently have discretion to approach anyone and ask them what they're up to. Just such a tactic could be used with people sitting on Carroll in parking spaces, texting or talking on the phone while their engines are running. A simple, "would you turn your engine off, please" is all that's needed. If asked why, the officer could say, "It's against the law to run your engine for no reason."
4) You wrote of electric leaf blowers: "If the device is electric, somewhere a power station is spewing emissions to give it juice. It may be better than directly powering it with gas, and it may be out-of-sight out-of-mind, but it still pollutes."
That's not necessarily true. The city gets a lot of its electricity from wind power, no? So instead of a power plant, it's a wind turbine that is supplying the juice. If we installed solar panels at the new PW facility, it would be solar power. Not to mention the fact that an electric blower takes a lot less energy to run and does not pollute locally. Besides, one can always use a rake or a broom and avoid the trade-off altogether.
5) You wrote: "The gas-powered leaf blower ban is back where it left off. Months ago the council had hearings on the subject, watering the proposal down and complicating it up."
The council has never held hearings on the subject. I have suggested (and suggest again here) that they actually propose regulations and then hold a hearing or series of hearings. Instead, they have held worksessions. The first was in January 2009, the second some months later. At the first, Seth Grimes and I participated. At the second, the council simply discussed again what it had already discussed.
There has been no "public" opposition to the proposal. The only citizen opposition we've heard about has been from anonymous residents, as quoted by their representatives. Mayor Williams, for example, said at the Oct. 11 meeting that a couple of people had told him they would "storm" city hall if the council enacted a ban. It would be nice if these storm troopers had to explain their positions at a public hearing, but so far, that hasn't happened.
(I need to give a shout-out here to Bruce Williams for his helpful comments about lawn care equipment. The mayor said he had bought a Neuton (battery-powered lawnmower) and an electric leaf blower. He will use a gas one for big jobs only.)
They also have never "watered the proposal down," since they never formally considered the subject. A seasonal ban would not be as strict as a 365-day-a-year ban, of course, but a seasonal ban is certainly acceptable to me. Josh Wright is quite right when he says that during the summer, all the blowers are doing is blowing dust around, a remarkably unhealthy practice considering the polluted air we already experience. (In addition, Wright was speaking of blowers, not mowers, when he spoke of a seasonal ban.) ["Gilbert" had mistakenly written that Wright suggested a seasonal ban on mowers.]
6) Lastly, both the leaf blower ban proposal and the anti-idling proposal are "pro-active." Are they innovative? Well, yes, if one considers "innovative" to mean "forward-looking." But a good idea does not have to be "innovative" to make sense.
Thanks for allowing me to comment.