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OPEI Threatens to Sue Palo Alto, California Over Gas Leaf Blower Ban
Jun 12, 2006
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The Palo Alto City Council is facing a potential lawsuit from the Bay Area Gardeners Association (BAGA) and the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI).

The two associations have threatened to sue the city of Palo Alto, California, U.S. in order to end a ban on the use of gasoline-powered leaf blowers, according to claim forms filed under the California Tort Claims Act with the City Clerk’s and Mayor’s Office in Palo Alto.

Before the ban went into effect in June 2005, city officials agreed to allow gardeners working in Palo Alto to purchase and use gas leaf blowers that were the cleanest and quietest models available. The council also asked gardeners to participate in a training program and obtain operator certifications. In response, the gardeners purchased nearly U.S. $4 million worth of new blowers in order to comply with the city’s demands. However, the City Council eventually voted to prohibit the use of gas blowers altogether.

Numerous officials stated on the record at the June 2005 meeting that their major goal was to eliminate gasoline blowers approved for sale in California by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) despite the fact that the blowers were certified with CARB’s stringent Tier II emission regulations. According to OPEI, the city council’s action stands in direct violation of the Federal Clean Air Act, which bars individual municipalities, like Palo Alto, from setting their own emissions standards for “mobile sources” like leaf blowers.

"In addition to the efforts the gardeners have made, the manufacturers of leaf blowers have been proactive and worked to make blowers that are markedly quieter and cleaner. Today, exhaust emissions from leaf blowers have been reduced by more than 85 percent. On some models, the sound levels have been reduced to the equivalent of a conversation," said James McNew, Vice President, Technical and Marketing Services, OPEI.

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