Response to misleading claims:

Straight facts on Question 1

Recently, Citizens for Choice, a group lobbying for a No vote on Question 1 (Landscaping Noise) published an ad and an editorial in the Lexington Times. Unfortunately, some of the statements they made are misleading. With so much at stake, it is vitally important that we cast our ballots based on accurate information. Here are the facts.

Claim: “The current electric leaf blower technology and performance is not yet good enough.”

Facts: Electric blowers are good enough. Firms both locally and elsewhere have been using electric blowers competitively and profitably for years (8 years in the case of a local firm, and 9 and 12 years for two DC-area firms), and electric equipment is now far better than it was when they started, 8 or more years ago. It simply makes no sense to argue that using electric blowers isn’t feasible when landscapers have been doing so for years.

Claim: “Our customer’s bills will double with all-electric equipment.”

Facts: To support this claim, Citizens for Choice cite a single high bid from a single landscaper. Working with electric equipment is not the primary business of that firm, and their charges are out of line with others. We have obtained information from numerous landscapers in this area and in the Washington DC area who have been using only electric blowers for years. Almost all say that they are cost-competitive. Some report no increase in prices, while others say that there may be small increases, for example, 10% to 20%. Locally, some residents have seen a decline in price when they switched to electric landscaping. Lexington currently has very high demand for clean electric landscaping but very few providers. As one electric-equipment landscaper in the DC area notes, once there is more competition, as there is already in the DC area, competition will insure reasonable prices.

Claim: Electric equipment is too expensive.

Facts: This is a distortion because it excludes operating costs. The initial purchase price of electric blowers is indeed much higher, primarily because of the cost of batteries, but energy and maintenance costs are much lower. Data from the American Green Zone Alliance (AGZA), which has extensive experience helping firms, institutions, and jurisdictions make the transition to electric equipment, indicate that over four years, the lower operating costs largely or even entirely offset the higher initial purchase price. Spread across the many cleanups a crew does each year, even the worst-case AGZA estimate is a trivial addition of a few dollars per job.

Claim: A No vote will “preserve and protect owner rights”.

Facts: The rights of property owners do not extend to harming their neighbors. All Lexington residents have the right to use their homes—indoors and out—without being subjected to toxic emissions and disruptive noise that is far in excess of current law. A Yes vote is a vote to protect the rights of all in our community.

Claim: Lithium and cobalt mining are environmentally harmful.

Facts: Lithium mining is damaging to the environment, but the extraction of petroleum is also at least as much if not more so. Think about the catastrophic oil spills off Alaska and in the Gulf of Mexico, the horrible damage and boreal deforestation created by the Alberta tar sands mining, the damage done by fracking, and child soldiers exploited over the course of wars for oil.

Where gas- and electric-powered landscaping differ is when the equipment is actually used in our community, and at that stage, gas-powered equipment is enormously more harmful, emitting large volumes of concentrated, highly toxic pollution and creating disruptive and harmful levels of noise. There are no local emissions from battery-powered blowers, and they generate a small fraction of the noise. These differences are what is at stake in Question 1.

Also, Lexington landscapers can recycle their lithium batteries right now. They can’t recycle the gas and oil they burn using gas-powered blowers.

Claim: Arlington repealed its restrictions on gas-powered leaf blowers “so there is now no leaf blower ban of any kind in Arlington.”

Facts: While it is true that Arlington substantially weakened its restrictions, it did not eliminate them. The current regulations are Article 12, Section 3.D of the town’s bylaws. Four other local towns have passed ordinances or bylaws restricting the use of gas-powered leaf blowers considerably more than Arlington does—Newton, Cambridge, Brookline, and Lincoln—and none has weakened or repealed them.

Claim: “The Select Board and the Noise Advisory Committee promised to bring only the seasonal limits for 2021 Fall Special Town Meeting and then gather information on the equipment transition for the 2022 Spring ATM. Unfortunately, an amendment on Fall Town Meeting floor was allowed to move forward and included a ban on gas-powered leaf blower equipment.”

Facts: Neither the Select Board nor the Noise Advisory Committee has the power to promise anything about what Town Meeting does. It is both the right and the obligation of Town Meeting to deliberate about proposals brought to them and decide what is in the best interests of our community. Even though the phase-out of gas-powered leaf blowers had been debated publicly for months, the Noise Advisory Committee removed it from its final proposal for fear of jeopardizing the other parts of the motion. After debate, Town Meeting reinserted the ban and then voted overwhelmingly, 85% in voting in favor, to enact Article 10.