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Florida cities want to ban noisy gas-powered leaf blowers and go electric. Tallahassee can put an end to that

Cities across Florida have been switching from noisy gas-powered leaf blowers to electric ones, citing benefits such as quieter lawn care, less air pollution and fewer atmosphere-warming emissions.

But at the last minute, without opportunity for public comment, the Florida Senate introduced and passed legislation that would block future and existing bans on gas-powered blowers.

If the new policy becomes law, it would disrupt nascent efforts in Miami to pass a similar ban, and potentially disrupt existing bans in multiple South Florida cities, including Miami Beach, Key Biscayne, South Miami and Pinecrest, turning it upside down.

The legislation, introduced by Sen. Jason Brodeur, R-Sanford, appears to have been sparked by a controversy over a possible ban in Winter Park, a city in central Florida. In early February, Brodeur introduced similar legislation in Tallahassee, but quickly withdrew it. The Winter Park Voice reported that Brodeur threatened to reinstate the ban if the city did not agree to put the issue to a citywide vote, which Winter Park agreed to.

The day after the city granted Brodeur’s request, the Senate approved his priority over the ban.

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Less noise, less pollution

Cities across the country, largely in California but also in Florida, have changed laws to swap gas-powered leaf blowers for electric ones. A decade ago, the bans were largely advertised as improving quality of life by eliminating the clamor of lawn maintenance.

But in recent years, advocates have highlighted the switch’s health and climate implications.

In the latest national emissions inventory, the federal government found that leaf blowers and lawn mowers in Florida alone emitted as much air pollution in 2020 as 22 million cars used in a year.

Because of its culture of green lawns year-round, Florida leads the nation in pollution from gas-powered lawn equipment. This pollution is harmful to human health and repeated exposure can lead to lung problems.

READ MORE: Florida’s landscaping equipment helps lead the country in this type of pollution

This map shows particulate matter pollution from lawn and garden equipment per province in 2020, in tonnes.

This map shows particulate matter pollution from lawn and garden equipment per province in 2020, in tonnes.

Gasoline is also a fossil fuel. Burning releases emissions into the atmosphere that worsen global warming.

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Electric lawn equipment does not emit any of these pollutants.

Aaron DeMayo, chairman of Miami’s Climate Resilience Committee and an urban planner at Miami-based design firm Future Visions Studio, introduced a resolution earlier this year to convert Miami’s gas leaf blowers to electric. The city commission is scheduled to take up the proposal in mid-March, but a state priority order would halt the bill before it even gets a hearing.

“We have so many actions we need to take to reach net zero, we need to start with something simple,” DeMayo said. “This seems pretty simple. The technology is already available. If we take our goals seriously, we should be able to do this.”

Opponents of the switch from gas to electricity often cite the price as a deterrent. While electric lawn equipment is cleaner and quieter than its fossil fuel counterparts, it is also more expensive.

In a post on would apply for at least one year, and the Senate measure also includes a $100,000 request for a study on the lifespan of gas-powered versus electric-powered leaf blowers. The measure, contained in a Senate budget bill, would still need to be approved by Gov. Ron DeSantis to become law.

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At a commercial level, electric leaf blowers can be four times more expensive than gasoline, although costs can level out over the life of the product and they are heavier. The LAist reported that some landscape contractors are struggling to adapt financially to mandates in California cities, although the state has introduced rebates and subsidies to ease the transition.

Using them in cities where they are banned can also be pricey. Miami Beach law imposes a $250 fine for the first offense for using a gas-powered fan and up to $1,000 for third and repeat offenses.

However, advocates say the switch is a necessary step in the transition to a low-carbon world, which is the only way to slow the damaging effects of climate change.

“There are costs associated with that transition, but there are also costs associated with not taking action on climate change emissions,” DeMayo said.

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