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Dallas Eyes Gas-Powered Lawn Care Ban

City

Gas Powered Ride On Lawnmower | Image by Shutterstock

Dallas officials are developing plans to prohibit gasoline-powered lawn equipment, citing concerns about health, noise, and the environment. City councilmembers will continue to discuss the proposal on Monday, December 5.

The plan would phase out the use of gas-powered tools for city departments, contractors, businesses, and residents by 2027 or 2030 and mandate the use of non-gasoline equipment such as electric tools.

Dallas officials said that they do not know how feasible it will be for the average resident to switch to alternative devices, so they plan to hire a consultant group to draw up the details of the transition plan and evaluate its impact on the public, especially lawn care and landscaping businesses.

“I think being able to meaningfully implement this in a way where we’re not adversely impacting those businesses is going to be critical,” said Susan Alvarez, assistant director of the Office of Environmental Quality and Sustainability, during an Environment and Sustainability Committee meeting on November 7.

The city switching its 5,400 pieces of gas-powered municipal equipment would reduce carbon emissions by the equivalent of 11,665 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year, comparable to taking more than 2,500 gas-powered cars off the road, according to a calculator from the Environmental Protection Agency.

However, the city said fully replacing all of its equipment would cost an estimated $6.5 million.

For residents and business owners, the estimate is 338,666 metric tons, or the equivalent of 73,000 cars, but citizens would have to spend $23 million to make the switch.

While some Dallas officials have expressed interest in a ban of this sort since 2019, the proposal has gained more support this year as the city tries to meet goals laid out in its comprehensive environmental and climate action plan approved by the city council in May 2020 with the expressed aim of reducing carbon emissions and protecting the environment.

The action plan set goals of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 43% by 2030 and making Dallas carbon-neutral by 2050.

Other concerns motivating the proposed ban include noise and health concerns over the emissions.

In August, the city’s environmental commission asked the city government to begin the transition by decreasing its use of gas-powered landscaping equipment. The commission recommended that large landscaping companies start making the switch next year, followed by medium-sized companies in 2024, then residents and small businesses in 2025.

The environmental commission also suggested the city offer financial incentives to residents and small businesses.

There are two separate proposals, and both suggest tiered implementation starting with the municipality, followed by businesses, and ending with residents. However, one plan suggests a full transition by 2030, while the other suggests a faster pace with a full transition by 2027.

“I think the transition by 2027 is feasible,” said commission chair Kathryn Bazan. “We just have to ensure that the city does the outreach and the engagement and that impacted communities are not left behind on this.”

Councilmembers Paula Blackmon and Paul Ridley said they support implementing the changes sooner rather than later.

“I do want this to keep moving forward, and we’ve had a year of discussion,” said Blackmon, chair of the council’s Environment and Sustainability Committee. “I think it’s now that we start working on how we are going to do this and when.”

Ridley added, “That’s a burden that’s imposed on people who work in lawn maintenance and that, I think, argues strongly for adopting the more rapid implementation plan and getting this done as soon as possible.”

However, the proposal does not appear to have support from those in the lawn care and landscaping industry. The Texas Nursery and Landscape Association (TNLA), representing more than 1,400 industry members, including 60 based in Dallas, is actively opposing the proposed ban.

“Our member companies have shared concerns with an abrupt transition forcing the use of inadequate technology and imposing serious costs as well as lost investments in our industry,” said Ryan Skrobarczyk, the association’s director of legislative and regulatory affairs. “TNLA is interested in preserving the freedom for our members to invest in the proper landscape equipment as they see fit.”

While using electric equipment does reduce emissions, the prohibition could lead to supply chain issues with battery-powered equipment, properly disposing of commercial-grade batteries, and a lack of clarity regarding what will happen to the existing gas-powered equipment, according to Skrobarczyk.

He added that TNLA representatives have expressed their concerns to city officials.

“Instead of a ban, the city could limit its proposal to a reasonable rebate fund that would make battery-powered equipment more cost competitive and allow companies to purchase commercial-grade equipment as it [becomes] technologically feasible,” Skrobarczyk said.

Dallas residents have also voiced opposition to the proposed ban.

“It just doesn’t seem like a good idea, especially when you still have things like diesel trucks that pollute way more than leaf blowers,” said Tony Hernandez, owner of Tony’s Lawn Care in West Dallas.

Hernandez, 52, said he wondered how the city would enforce the rule and asked how it would impact the efficiency of his own business.

“If I live to see that day, I’ll deal with it when it comes,” he said. “I guess we all would.”

The Dallas Express will report on any developments on this proposal made during Monday’s Environment and Sustainability Committee meeting.

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