It’s time for Montclair government to move away from gas leaf blowers, too (Town square)
Several community organization leaders sent the following letter to Montclair Township Manager Tim Stafford Feb. 2, in an effort organized by Quiet Montclair, which opposes the use of gas-powered leaf blowers. Group member Peter Holm told Montclair Local that as of March 2, the writers hadn't heard back.
In February 2021, the Montclair Township Council passed Ordinance O-21-01, amending Montclair’s longstanding law on gas-powered leaf blowers (GLBs) to further restrict their use, and the township took steps to promote better compliance with the law by landscaping companies, property managers and residents.
These actions notably reduced air and noise pollution in Montclair between May and October last year, and we thank you for your leadership in moving them forward.
As you know, the use of GLBs generates significant risks to public health, the natural environment and quality of life, and the workers using these tools face the greatest hazards. Meanwhile, the performance and cost-effectiveness of commercial-grade battery-electric alternatives have improved tremendously in recent years.
On behalf of the organizations we lead, we urge you to ensure that the township government is taking further steps to honor the purpose of the law.
In our understanding, Montclair’s Department of Community Services still uses GLBs to maintain municipal properties throughout the year, even as other local governments (e.g., Maplewood, Princeton, Westfield) have begun efforts to transition their grounds maintenance equipment away from GLBs and other gas-powered tools to safer, healthier and greener battery-electric alternatives.
The township’s inaction puts employees and community members at unnecessary risk. It also raises questions of fairness and arguably weakens compliance with the law, since many companies and residents question why they should honor a law that the township does not apply to itself.
Some examples of actions the township could take to address these concerns include:
- Begin replacing gas-powered grounds maintenance equipment with battery-electric tools through regular capital replacement cycles, starting with GLBs.
- Pending such replacement, eliminate or at least minimize the township’s use of GLBs during the periods of the year and times of day when their use is prohibited by § 217-6 of the municipal code (Montclair's noise regulation for gas-powered leaf blowers), thereby approaching or achieving consistency with what is required of other property owners and managers.
- 3. To the extent that the Township contracts with private companies to conduct grounds maintenance tasks, make the year-round use of battery-electric and/or manual tools a significant “plus factor” in making contract awards.
We recognize that high-performance, commercial-grade battery electric equipment can cost somewhat more to purchase than traditional gas-powered equipment, and some adjustments to operational practices and support infrastructure (e.g., charging stations, extra batteries) are required. However, the operational savings associated with proper use of battery-electric equipment have been shown to cover and exceed initial investment costs over time, to say nothing of the health and environmental benefits that begin to accrue immediately.
Professional, non-profit assistance is available to help municipal governments make this transition efficiently and effectively; for example, Westfield has recently engaged with the American Green Zone Alliance (agza.net) to do so.
Montclair has long been one of New Jersey’s leading municipalities on environmental issues, and the township government has an important role to play in setting a positive example for the entire community. This is an opportunity to strengthen Montclair’s environmental legacy, improve worker and public health and raise quality of life while reducing annual operating costs and eliminating disparate treatment of municipal departments as compared to residents, companies and other non-governmental entities.
Thank you for your dedication to the health and well-being of the people of Montclair and for your conscientious stewardship of the environment we all inhabit together.
Peter Holm and Deb Ellis
Norm Solomon, J.D.
League of Women Voters of the Montclair Area Environmental Committee
Northeast Earth Coalition
Montclair Backyard Habitat Project CC: Members of the Township Council
The Rev. Anya Sammler-Michael
Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Montclair
Montclair Senior Citizens Advisory Committee (Note: Craig has resigned from her role on the committee since the time this letter was sent to township officials)
Montclair Climate Action
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