While the majority of Montgomery County councilmembers still want to ban the sale and use of gas leaf blowers, it apparently will take longer for that to happen.
After a two-hour work session Tuesday, the council agreed to greatly increase the rebate offered to those who convert to an electric leaf blower and sent other matters back to the county’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to redraw parts of the proposed legislation.
Another discussion session is expected to be held in the near future.
While recognizing that gas powered leaf blowers are bad for the environment and create noise pollution, several councilmembers expressed concern for the small landscaping companies, who might not be able to stay in business if had to purchase new leaf blowers and battery kits. That would amount to thousands of dollars while only being eligible for a $100 rebate, said Councilmember Gabe Albornoz.
“There is no question that they are very loud and very annoying,” especially with more people working from home, said Albornoz. “They are also bad for the climate.”
However, he said, this bill would hurt the small business owner. He also expressed concern about the possibility of pitting neighbor against neighbor when residents begin reporting each other.
Council discussed increasing the rebate offered and elongating the time from at least six months to two years before the use of gas leaf blowers would be outlawed.
“$100. There’s just no way that is going to make up for the economic impact” of having to purchase the more expensive equipment, said Councilmember Marilyn Balcombe. “My guess is the ones who need it the most” will be the last to learn about the rebate and the last to apply, when the program may already have used up all its allocated funds, she said.
Councilmember Natali Fani-Gonzalez passionately spoke out against the proposed rebate amount. “I am an environmentalist, but people in my community are barely making a living” in the landscaping business, she said.
“I feel outrage right now. There is no reward program if it is not just $1,000,” she said. “The margins they are making are so small. If you are going to talk about racial justice, you’ve got to be responsible.”
Council Vice President Andrew Friedson agreed. “If you are going to do a rebate program, it has to be a real rebate program.”
DEP employees agreed to work on this proposal further and then recommend the amount of a rebate as well as how long between when the sale is banned and when the use of gas leaf blowers are outlawed.