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Smith Bill to Prohibit Sale and Use of Gas-Powered Leaf Blowers Clears Committee

TRENTON – The Senate Environment and Energy Committee advanced legislation sponsored by its Chair, Senator Bob Smith, which would prohibit the sale and use of gas-powered leaf blowers, except under certain circumstances. As defined in the bill, a “gas-powered leaf blower” has a two-stroke or four-stroke engine and uses gasoline or a gasoline and oil blend as fuel.

“Gas-powered leaf blowers have for years been a scourge on the local environment. Not only are they massive polluters, but they are also a nuisance to people trying to enjoy the outdoors,” said Senator Smith (D-Middlesex/Somerset). “There are an abundance of cheap electric alternatives, which are quieter, safer to operate, and less harmful for the environment.”

Gas-powered leaf blowers emit high rates of pollutants. The amount of carbon monoxide emitted from a typical backpack gas-powered leaf blower for just one hour is equal to the amount of carbon monoxide emitted from the tailpipe of an automobile operating for over eight hours, and, for the other pollutants, the amounts are even greater.

In addition to environmental consequences, gas-powered leaf blowers are also associated with occupational health concerns. They generate noise at a decibel level capable of causing hearing loss in a short amount of time, and send dust and other small particles into the air for considerable distances.

Under the bill, S-217, the sale or distribution of gas-powered leaf blowers with a two-stroke engine would be prohibited two years after the bill’s effective date, while their use would be prohibited four years after its effective date. The use of gas-powered leaf blowers with a four-stroke engine would be prohibited four years after the bill’s effective date, with certain exceptions for municipal use and during peak seasons.

Any person who violates the bill’s provisions would be subject to a civil penalty of not less than $500 nor more than $1,000 for each offense.

The bill was advanced in a 3-2 vote.