Politics blog

Sen. Ranker wants to replace state agencies' leaf-blowers with brooms, rakes

OlympianJanuary 21, 2014 

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Vanny Song of Tacoma uses a leaf blower on Oct. 21, 2013 to tidy up the parking lot of Gig Harbor marina Murphy's Landing.

LEE GILES III — The Peninsula Gateway

State Sen. Kevin Ranker introduced a bill Tuesday to bar Washington state agencies from using gasoline-powered leaf blowers, saying they are noisy and emit greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming. The Democrat from Orcas Island said the state “needs to lead” with policies that are in line with state goals on climate change.

“These things are noisy and they also release significant greenhouse gases,” Ranker said. 

Senate Bill 6324 would let state workers use electricity-powered blowers, but Ranker also said they could use brooms and rakes to pick up leaves from Capitol Campus lawns.

“I understand for state employees it’s a lot easier to use a leaf blower than to use a broom. But they can still use brooms,” Ranker said. “So I think we should break out the brooms and rakes and retire the leaf blowers.’’

Jim Erskine, a spokesman for the Department of Enterprise Services, which manages state agency buildings and grounds, said he had heard a bill might be dropped. But the agency had no details.

Ranker acknowledged that leaf blowers are not a huge source of greenhouse gas emissions. But this story in The Washington Post and this study by Edmunds InsideLine.com show that leaf blowers’ two-stroke engines emit a lot of greenhouse gases for their size and weight – even more than an automobile in some cases. 

The bill comes as Ranker, Gov. Jay Inslee and Democratic Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon of Seattle have hit an impasse with Republicans on the governor’s Climate Legislative and Executive Workgroup. The Democrats want to design a cap-and-trade program that places a cost on carbon-based pollution, as well as end the state’s importation of electricity produced in Montana using coal and finding ways to reduce the amount of carbon used transportation fuels.

Republicans on the panel – Sen. Doug Ericksen of Ferndale and Rep. Shelly Short of Addy – favor more use of hydroelectricity on existing dams, nuclear power, conservation and other steps.  

One place Ranker and Ericksen appear to agree on is the need to explore the potential of using more nuclear power to replace fossil fuels.

But no word yet on whether Ericksen, who chairs the Senate Energy, Environment and Telecommunications Committee, will give SB 6324 a hearing.

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