It’s tempting to see the proposal to outlaw gas-powered lawn equipment in Dallas as the machinations of a progressive block of city staff and council members seeking to “California our Texas.” After all, two of the case studies put forward at last month’s council briefing came from California and Washington, D.C.
On the other hand, 30 seconds listening to a leaf blower blasting can change one’s mind.
The tricky task facing Dallas is to find a way to promote enjoyable, peaceful neighborhoods without overburdening property owners or businesses. Few people like leaf blowers, but few of us want government telling us how to cut the lawn.
The current proposal, which is likely to change before the council adopts any formal policy, is to phase out gas-powered lawn equipment of all kinds over the next several years, culminating in a complete ban by 2030. We can get behind this rule for city crews and contractors, but outlawing this equipment for homeowners and private contractors is a step too far.
First, and most important, it removes a simple freedom — to care for one’s property as one sees fit. Yes, property rights are subject to regulation for the common good, especially when they conflict with the safety or health of other citizens. But, as annoying as they are, no one is being directly injured by leaf blowers.
Promoters of the ban will point to climate change and air quality as harmful, but the council presentation last month included no evidence that is true. There were some data about emissions. A large leaf blower, operated for three hours per day, will emit 9.61 tons of carbon dioxide each year, according to city staff. But does it really reduce emissions to charge a leaf blower on a grid powered by methane-belching plants in West Texas? Or with the power from a landscaper’s truck left running so he can charge up for the next job?
Proponents of the ban will say it’s an environmental justice issue since, quoting the staff report, “Most lawn crews are unprotected and work full time at the source of emissions and noise. … A large portion of landscape workers are Hispanic.”
You know who else is Hispanic? Many of the owners of landscaping companies who are struggling to stay in business, and provide jobs, in the face of soaring inflation.
The city’s environmental justice message comes fully charged with a patronizing big-brother-knows-best tone. If you ask actual landscapers, they will tell you that their tools are their livelihood, and please don’t mess with them.
Meanwhile, for many homeowners who cut their own grass, the market is already shifting toward electric tools. A market-driven solution with incentives for electric purchases is what the Texas Nursery and Landscape Association is proposing.
We think there’s a reasonable path here that transitions city crews and contractors, incentivizes private citizens, and respects homeowner rights while recognizing that City Hall doesn’t need to impose its costly will on small business owners.
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