science environment

Portland City Government To Transition Away From Gas-Powered Leaf Blowers

By Rebecca Ellis (OPB)
Portland, Ore. Dec. 5, 2019 3:45 p.m.

Portland’s government is getting rid of its stock of roughly 300 gasoline-powered leaf blowers, which city leaders say are a menace to both the environment and the eardrums of the operators.

City Commissioner Nick Fish, who oversees Portland’s Bureau of Parks and Recreation, introduced a resolution that would have the city transition to quieter, electric models by the beginning of 2021.


Fish said the city’s current stock of leaf blowers, spread out over five bureaus, has been proven to be a significant air quality polluter. Many of the machines use an inefficient two-stroke engine, which spews toxic pollutants like carbon monoxide and carcinogenic hydrocarbons.


A 2011 study cited by Fish found that using a two-stroke blower for half an hour emitted the same amount of pollutants as driving nearly 4,000 miles in a Ford pick-up truck.

And, of course, they’re noisy. Noise levels for those holding the machines can reach a painful 112 decibels. A jet plane taking off is about 120 decibels.

The directive approved by City Council would only apply to the city’s stock — not private residents. But some commissioners expressed interest in one day working toward a more all-encompassing ban, which has been adopted by many major cities including Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles.

“I’m hoping this policy, while it only addresses city bureaus, I hope it will lead to a citywide ban,” said City Commissioner Amanda Fritz. Commissioner Chloe Eudaly echoed the sentiment.

Asena Lawrence, Fish’s senior policy director, said the city will form a working group early in the new year to consider how to start transitioning more of the city toward environmentally-friendly leaf blowers.

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