Cambridge To Consider Banning Gas-Powered Lawn Equipment

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Cambridge city councilors are considering banning gas-powered lawn equipment.

“The environmental justice issue of the health of the workers has become more and more paramount,” councilor Patricia Nolan said during a council meeting Monday, April 24. “There is more and more evidence that the workers who are using these gas-powered machines are experiencing respiratory distress, that they have long-time hearing loss.”

Councilors talked about banning gas-powered leaf blowers last year, but took no action.

The sponsors of the motion discussed earlier this week did not specify examples of lawn equipment, but among the types of lawn equipment that are powered by gasoline are lawnmowers, trimmers, and leaf blowers. Last year’s discussion focused only on leaf blowers.

Nolan said Monday that recent advances in electric equipment capabilities make banning gas-powered equipment more feasible. “There’s technological improvements over the last year that suggest that we may be able to do more than we would have been able to do a year ago,” she said, noting that “many other municipalities and jurisdictions are now facing the question of needing to phase these lawn equipment out.”

Councilor Quinton Zondervan said that he has been working on this issue for more than 10 years, but that Cambridge has “not been able to ban this equipment even though it has all these detrimental health impacts and detrimental environmental impacts.”

Before joining the council, Zondervan was president of Green Cambridge, a nonprofit organization “addressing climate change and environmental justice.” He is currently the clerk of the organization’s board of directors.

Nolan and Zondervan were the sponsors of the motion, along with councilor Dennis Carlone.

The motion met with no direct opposition, but councilor Paul Toner wondered if current electric lawn equipment is powerful enough to replace gas-powered equipment, saying that some have told him it isn’t. “I’m all for protecting the workers, but at the same time, it’s also been expressed to me that because the electric ones aren’t as powerful, it makes the worker’s job … more difficult,” he said.

Toner mentioned he has spoken to James Kelly of Cambridge Landscaping Co. Inc., who last year said he was willing to work with the council to develop a new policy on gas-powered equipment. Kelly expressed concerns about the efficiency of electric leaf blowers during a meeting of the city council’s Health and Environment subcommittee in June 2022, saying that they “just don’t have the power to push the leaves that’s needed when you’re doing larger properties, which mostly my company does,” according to Cambridge Day.

NewBostonPost contacted Kelly for comment Tuesday night. He could not immediately be reached.

Toner also wondered if the eventual result of the discussion is a foregone conclusion, pointing out the language of the motion, which seeks to “develop a policy that would lead to a ban on the use of gas-powered lawn equipment in Cambridge.”

Zondervan said he didn’t think the result of the hearing is a foregone conclusion, saying that the council has “heard from DPW over the years, because this conversation’s been going on for many years, as I said, that the technology keeps improving, and so, we’re just asking again:  Is it ready? Can we finally ban them? Some municipalities have, and maybe we will too, maybe not. But I don’t think this is a foregone conclusion. It’s just expressing our desire to ban this equipment.” 

Nolan responded by saying that gas-powered equipment will eventually be banned. “I think eventually we can all agree, there will be no gas-powered lawn equipment because we won’t even have gas-powered cars by 2030 or 2035,” she said.

Even so, Nolan said the details of the actual policy on gas-powered lawn equipment are not set. She said all are welcome to join the conversation. She said that for last year’s committee meeting, every licensed landscaping business in Cambridge was notified beforehand, and that the same would happen for any future meetings. “We are not trying to hide anything,” she said.

The council voted 9-0 in favor of the motion on Monday, April 24. The Health and Environment subcommittee of the city council is now supposed to conduct a public hearing.

Cambridge isn’t the first municipality in Massachusetts to take steps to limit or ban gas-powered lawn equipment.

Arlington residents voted in March 2023 during town meeting to gradually phase out gas-powered leaf blowers. The town had previously limited using such equipment to outside the summer months.

Lexington residents voted to phase out gas-powered leaf blowers in March 2022. The town’s policy calls for immediately limiting their use to daytime hours, and eventually banning them outright in 2026.

Marblehead residents voted in May 2022 to ban gas-powered leaf blowers during the summer months.

In 2017, the Newton city council voted to ban gas-powered leaf blowers during the summer months.


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