The legislation forges the path to end harmful gasoline-fueled leaf blowers in city government by 2025 and the rest of Seattle by 2027
SEATTLE – Today Councilmember Alex Pedersen (District 4, Northeast Seattle) heralded the passage of legislation by the Seattle City Council to sunset harmful gas-powered leaf blowers in Seattle to protect workers, reduce noise, and improve the environment. Specifically, Resolution 32064 calls for ending the use of harmful gas-powered leaf blowers in city government by 2025 and the rest of Seattle by 2027.
“Nearly everyone hates obnoxious, loud, gas-belching leaf blowers, so why do we allow them to continue damaging eardrums, spraying debris into faces, and polluting our city?” asked Councilmember Pedersen. “Other cities are banning or phasing out leaf blowers and it’s time to blow them out of Seattle as well. While public safety and homelessness must continue as priority issues, City Hall has the bandwidth to address this public health and environmental issue, too. While it was reasonable for Seattle to pause work on this issue during the pandemic, other places across the nation have recently been leap-frogging Seattle by banning these harmful devices, including Washington, D.C.; Burlington, Vermont; the entire state of California; and 100 other jurisdictions. I have confidence the Harrell Administration can get this done.”
Nicole Grant, Executive Director of 350 Seattle, a grass roots environmental and climate justice organization building momentum for healthy alternatives to fossil fuels, said, “Gas powered leaf blowers are contrary to our values — they use fossil fuels and are unwelcoming with their excessive noise and toxic emissions. We are pleased that Councilmember Pedersen is proposing a sound process for the City to transition away from these unnecessary machines.”
D.C. Councilmember Mary M. Cheh, Chair of the Committee on Transportation and the Environment with the Council of the District of Columbia said, “In 2018, the District passed legislation I introduced that banned the sale and use of gas-powered leaf blowers as of January 1, 2022. Since that legislation was implemented earlier this year, it’s greatly improved the quality of life in the District, not only reducing the harmful noise produced by these devices, but also improving air quality. Given these benefits, I am in support of efforts in the largest city in ‘the other Washington’ to pass similar legislation, and hope that the District’s law can be a model for Seattle and jurisdictions across the country.” Councilmember Cheh’s staff presented at the Sustainability Committee on August 19 to explain in detail how D.C. got it done.
Peri Hartman, co-founder of the group Quiet Clean Seattle: “Our cofounders have been working to eliminate use of gas-powered leaf blowers in Seattle for several years. We are very pleased to see Councilmember Pedersen’s proposal move to the Council, an exciting step so desired by our members.”
During its budget review process in November 2021, the City Council adopted a Statement of Legislative Intent asking City departments by September 2, 2022 to “develop a plan to phase out the use of all gas-powered leaf blowers in Seattle within two years. Following implementation of the two-year plan, the goal would be for the City to ban the use of gas-powered leaf blowers.” Today’s Resolution reinforces the Council’s intent to phase out noxious gasoline-fueled leaf blowers in Seattle to reduce public health harms to landscape workers, the general public, and the environment.
Today’s Resolution states, “The City recognizes that the use of gas-powered leaf blowers causes significant adverse environmental and health impacts, including noise and air pollution” and asks City departments by December of this year (2022) to “develop a proposal that would phase out and ban the use of gas-powered leaf blowers within Seattle.”
Regarding the timeframe, the Resolution states, “By January 2025…the City and its contractors will phase out the use of gas-powered leaf blowers. By January 2027…institutions located in Seattle, businesses operating in Seattle, and Seattle residents will phase out the use of gas-powered leaf blowers.”
The Resolution seeks to explore whether the City should offer incentives, such as a buyback program or rebates on replacement purchases, to landscaping businesses that operate in Seattle and to low-income Seattle residents that need support to transition from gas-powered to electric-powered leaf blowers.
Recent data have revealed more of the environmental and public health impacts of gas-powered leaf blowers; the quality of their sound is more harmful than electric leaf blowers. Gas-powered leaf blowers most commonly have two-stroke internal combustion engines that incompletely combust their fuel, resulting in the emission of toxins and carcinogens, such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, and volatile organic compounds. Gas-powered machines cause significant adverse individual and public health impacts.
At the same time, the technology of electric-powered devices has greatly improved. Landscaping businesses are learning that they can do the same work with far less impact on workers and neighbors.
The issue of phasing out gasoline-fueled leaf blowers has been on the official work program of the Council’s Sustainability & Renters’ Rights Committee, which unanimously recommended the Resolution on Friday, August 19.
In addition to dozens of additional emails received at City Hall this past week from residents throughout Seattle, our Resolution to rid Seattle of gas-powered leaf blowers earned more support:
- The Seattle Times published a positive editorial on September 6, 2022: “Phasing out gas leaf blowers is the right move for Seattle.” It wrote, “The Seattle City Council is right to get rid of them — the sooner the better for any city department…”
- The 46th Legislative District Democrats endorsed the Resolution at their Aug 31, 2022 meeting.
For more information, see Councilmember Pedersen’s blog.
(Note: A team of 2nd year graduate students earning their master’s in public administration from the University of Washington’s Evans School of Public Policy and Governance assisted in the research of this topic for Councilmember Pedersen’s office.)
More Information about Harmful Gas-Powered Leaf Blowers:
- Acquisition Safety. (2016). Fact Sheet: Occupation Exposure to Hand-Arm Vibration (HAV). US Navy: Safety Center Afloat Safety Programs Office.
- Associated Press. (2021, April 17) “What? What? City bans use of loud, gas-powered leaf blowers” The Seattle Times [about Burlington, VT’s ban]
- Banks, Jamie, and Robert McConnel. (2015). National Emissions From Lawn And Garden Equipment. US Environmental Protection Agency.
- Baldauf, R. W., Fortune, C., Weinstein, J. P., Wheeler, M., Blanchard, F. (2006, July 1). Air Contaminant Exposure During the Operation of Lawn and Garden Equipment. EPA Science Inventory. https://cfpub.epa.gov/si/si_public_record_report.cfm?Lab=NERL&dirEntryId=155364
- Board of County Commissioners for Multnomah County. (2021, December 16). Resolution No. 2021-094 (enacted).
- Boykoff, J. (2011, August 18). The Leaf Blower, Capitalism, and the Atomization of Everyday Life. Capitalism Nature Socialism, 22(3), 95-113.
- Bullard., R. D., Mohai, P., Saha, R., Wright, B. (2007). Toxic Wastes and Race at Twenty 1987 – 2007 (A Report Prepared for the United Church of Christ Justice & Witness Ministries). United Church of Christ.
- California Air Resources Board. (2000). Mobile Source Control Division, A Report to the California Legislature on the Potential Health and Environmental Impacts of Leaf Blowers. California Air Resources Board.
- California Air Resources Board. (n.d. a) SORE: Small Engines Fact Sheet. California Air Resources Board.
- California Legislature (2020). Bill text: AB-1346 Air pollution: small off-road engines. California Legislative Information. (n.d.).
- Council of the District of Columbia. (2018). B22-234. Leaf Blower Regulation Amendment Act of 2018; Committee of the Whole Committee Report.
- Costa-Gomez, I., Banon, D., Moreno-Grau, S., Revuelta, R., Elvira-Rendueles, B., Moreno, J. (2020). Using a low-cost monitor to assess the impact of leaf blowers on particle pollution during street cleaning. Air Quality, Atmosphere & Health, 13, 15-23.
- Fallows, J. (2019). Get Off my Lawn. How a small group of activists (our correspondent among them) got leaf blowers banned in the nation’s capital. The Atlantic.
- Gabasa, S. A., Md Razali, K. A., As’arry, A., & Abdul Jalil, N. A. (2019). Vibration transmitted to the hand by backpack blowers. International Journal of Automotive and Mechanical Engineering, 16(2), 6697–6705.
- Gonzalez, C. (2021, December 16). Multnomah County adopts plan to phase out gas-powered leaf blowers. Oregon Public Broadcasting.
- Green Livable Environment for Everyone. (2016, May). Leaf blowers in DC – a fact sheet. The Atlantic.
- HD Supply. (2022). Leaf Blower Regulations. HD Supply. Retrieved from
- Health Science Associates. (2017). Industrial Hygiene Survey. Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
- Henricks, S. (2017). RE: City of Los Altos gas-powered leaf blower ordinance. Management Analyst, City of Los Altos, CA. Retrieved from
- Jones, Fischer, and Eric Boles. (2017). Gas Vs Battery Powered Maintenance Tools On The University Of Arkansas Campus. University Of Arkansas Office Of Sustainability. Retrieved from https://sustainability.uark.edu/outdated/get-involved/ofs_ua_battery_grounds_tools_report_20170927.pdf
- Kavanagh, J. (2011, December 5). Emissions test: Car vs. Truck vs. Leaf Blower. Edmunds. Retrieved from https://www.edmunds.com/car-reviews/features/emissions-test-car-vs-truck-vs-leaf-blower.html
- Milman, Oliver (2022, January 5) “Tree-mendous news: noisy gas-powered leaf blowers banned in Washington DC” The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/jan/05/gas-leaf-blowers-banned-washington-dc
- Mudede, Charles. (2021, November 29) “The City of Seattle Must Ban Leaf Blowers” The Stranger
- National Association of Landscape Professionals. (2021). 2021 Workforce Demographic Study. National Association of Landscape Professionals.
- Pedersen, A. (2021). SLI OSE-003-B-001: 2022 Seattle City Council Statement of Legislative Intent.
- Porcello, Michael. (2022, July 27). Phone Interview with Legislative Aide to Washington D.C. City Councilmember Mary Cheh.
- Pollock, C. (2018). Bill No. B22.234, the Leaf Blower Regulation Amendment Act of 2017-Written Statement by Arup.
- Radke, Bill. (2014, October 31) “Radke Rant: Leaf Blowers Are Lazy, Selfish And Stupid” KUOW
- Smith, Cam WCAX News (2022, June 4) “New Ordinance in Burlington bans gas-powered leaf blowers” Retrieved from https://www.wcax.com/2022/06/04/new-ordinance-burlington-bans-gas-powered-leaf-blowers/
- US Environmental Protection Agency, (2021a, May 5). Ground-level Ozone Basics. EPA.gov. https://www.epa.gov/ground-level-ozone-pollution/ground-level-ozone-basics
- US Environmental Protection Agency, (2021b, May 5). Health Effects of Ozone Pollution. EPA.gov. https://www.epa.gov/ground-level-ozone-pollution/health-effects-ozone-pollution
- University of Washington Evans School of Public Policy and Governance graduate student team, (2022, June). “Leaf Blowers: Addressing the Impacts of Gas-Powered Leaf Blowers in Seattle, WA” https://pedersen.seattle.gov/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/Leaf-Blower-Report-Final-Draft-June-2022.pdf
- Walker E. & Banks, JL. (2017). Characteristics of Lawn and Garden Equipment Sound: A Community Pilot Study. J Environ Toxicol Stu 1(1).
- Washington D.C. Department of Consumer & Regulatory Affairs. (2022, January 1) “Leaf Blower Regulations” Retrieved from https://dcra.dc.gov/leafblower
- Willon, P. (2021, December 9). California regulators sign off on phaseout of new gas-powered lawn mowers, leaf blowers. Los Angeles Times.
About Councilmember Alex Pedersen: Before his election in Nov 2019 to represent the 100,000 residents of Seattle’s District 4, Alex Pedersen worked on community development, affordable housing, and fiscal accountability issues for 25 years in both the public and private sectors. After earning a Master of Government Administration, he served the Clinton Administration at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) as a Presidential Management Fellow. Alex’s career includes 15 years managing financial analysts to fund the preservation, renovation, or construction of over 30,000 units of affordable housing across the country. He served as Legislative Aide to former Council President Tim Burgess and crafted the original resolution that became the nationally acclaimed Seattle Preschool Program enacted by voters in 2014. Alex and his wife have been raising their two children in Northeast Seattle for over a decade.
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