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Encinitas taking steps to ban gas-powered leaf blowers

In an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and meet its Climate Action Plan goals, Encinitas may soon ban the use of gas-powered leaf blowers within city limits.

A public hearing on the proposal is scheduled for the City Council’s June 19 meeting.

The proposed ordinance, which can be viewed on the city’s website at EncinitasCA.gov/Climate, bans “the use or operation of any leaf blower powered by a combustion or gasoline engine” within the city limits.

First-time violators would receive a warning notice, while second-time violators could receive a $100 fine. A second fine would cost $200, and after that the fine increases to $1,000, the ordinance states.

Battery-operated or electric cord-powered leaf blowers aren’t subject to the proposed ban because their use doesn’t produce as much air pollution, Climate Action Plan Program Administrator Crystal Najera said.

Gas-powered blowers and outboard boat motors use two-stroke engines, which are very energy inefficient, she said. A report produced by the state Environmental Protection Agency’s Air Resources Board indicates that a gas-powered leaf blower produces 500 times more greenhouse gas emissions than a light-duty truck built in 2000, she said.

The proposed ban is expected to allow the city to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 128 metric tons by 2020, Najera said.

Encinitas’ stance is rare because it is proposing its leaf-blower ban on environmental grounds rather than noise concerns, said Eric Steenblock, the city’s environmental programs manager.

“Most jurisdictions have it worked into the noise restrictions — it’s noise-based,” he said.

Some two dozen cities in California have banned the use of gas-powered leaf blowers. In San Diego County, Del Mar and Solana Beach have leaf-blower bans. Del Mar enacted its ban more than a decade ago on noise grounds, and it doesn’t permit the use of any type of leaf blowers, even electric-powered ones, Del Mar’s website notes.

Encinitas has always restricted the hours that leaf blowers can be used; they’re allowed to operate between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m., Steenblock said. And, the city’s largest land managers — the Encinitas Ranch Golf Association and the city itself — already have shifted over to using battery-powered blowers.

The City Council approved Encinitas’ ambitious Climate Action Plan in January 2018. The document details how the city proposes to drastically reduce its greenhouse gas emissions in the coming decades. Eliminating the use of gas-powered blowers is one item mentioned within the plan, which also contains much larger goals including the establishment of a community choice energy entity, which would procure power from renewable sources for the city.

The plan calls for Encinitas to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 13 percent by 2020, and 41 percent by 2030. The city’s starting point is its 2012 greenhouse gas emission rate, which was estimated at just under 500,000 metric tons.

As they voted to approve the plan, council members said Encinitas ought to be a leader in the efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in part because it is a coastal city. Greenhouse gas emissions are believed to be causing global temperatures to increase and sea levels to rise, thus putting coastal communities at risk.

-- Barbara Henry is a freelance writer for The San Diego Union-Tribune.


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