Hochul must sign bill to help get rid of noisy landscaping equipment
Across Long Island, Westchester County, and other suburban parts of our state, the mind-numbing buzz of leaf blowers, weed whackers, and lawn mowers working on yard after yard in endless rotations has become ubiquitous.
Though everyone is familiar with noise pollution, not everyone is aware of its health impacts, or the equipment’s even more significant air and climate effects. Responding to the growing concerns of residents, communities across Long Island and the rest of the state have already taken action to address the issue, and many more are considering it.
Fortunately, this year the State Legislature overwhelmingly passed a bill we carried that would allow New Yorkers to breathe a little easier and enjoy a bit more peace and quiet, by creating a rebate program for the purchase of electric landscaping equipment to help landscapers and homeowners make the transition to cleaner, quieter, battery-powered equipment. We urge Gov. Kathy Hochul to sign the bill before the end of the year.
Gas-powered lawn care equipment has a significant negative impact on workers, communities, and the environment. Electric equipment is lighter, quieter, has lower maintenance costs, a significantly smaller environmental footprint, and is better for workers’ health.
Gas-powered equipment emits large amounts of greenhouse gases and harmful, smog-forming pollution, including hydrocarbons, oxides of nitrogen, carbon monoxide, and fine particulate matter. The California Air Resources Board has reported that operating a gas-powered lawn mower for one hour creates as much smog-forming pollution as driving an average car 300 miles, about the distance from New York City to Portland, Maine. Operating a gas-powered leaf blower for one hour creates as much smog-forming pollution as driving a car 1,100 miles, or from New York City to Tampa, Florida.
Noise is also a significant negative impact from gas-powered equipment. According to a 2018 report in the Journal of Environmental and Toxicological Studies, sound levels at distances of 100 to 400 feet were as much as 22 decibels louder for gas-powered leaf blowers than for their battery-electric equivalents. And because gas-powered blowers have a lower frequency than their electric equivalents, their noise can be heard over longer distances and through windows and doors. The report notes that “the routine use of multiple GLBs [gas-powered leaf blowers] and other noisy equipment for hours a day exposes not only workers but large numbers of people in the community to harmful levels of noise and threatens not only worker health, but public health, particularly of children, seniors, and other vulnerable populations.”
Our bill would create a point-of-sale rebate program for landscapers and homeowners buying battery-powered landscaping equipment. Based on successful programs in California, it would incentivize individuals, commercial landscapers, and institutions to transition to electric lawn care equipment, with lasting benefits for workers, communities, and our shared environment. It will also give New York’s cities, towns, and villages, many now grappling with how to address the blight caused by gas-powered equipment, more flexibility by providing support to landscapers and homeowners for the transition to electric equipment.
New Yorkers — residents and landscapers alike — need a break from the noise and air pollution caused by gas-powered lawn equipment. By signing this bill, Hochul can make the transition affordable and keep New York on track to meet our climate goals and improve the state’s quality of life.
THIS GUEST ESSAY reflects the views of Steve Englebright, chair of the Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee, and Liz Krueger, chair of the Senate Finance Committee.
This guest essay reflects the views of Steve Englebright, chair of the Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee, and Liz Krueger, chair of the Senate Finance Committee.