R Reibstein_HeadshotBy Rick Reibstein, JD

Welcome to the Quiet Communities Legal Advisory Council blog. This blog space is for discussion of the legal actions that can be taken to bring about quieter, cleaner communities.

The QC Legal Advisory Council is a group of attorneys from diverse areas of the country. We are joined in concern for the lack of information on best legal pathways to address the issues around burgeoning noise and pollution in our communities.  You can find out more about who we are at https://www.quietcommunities.org/legal-advisory-council/.

Our initial focus is on backpack gas combustion engines used to power leaf blowers and other small 2-stroke engines that are considered to be among the worst pollution sources around.  Our goal here is to promote discussion of legal actions that citizens and communities can take to:

  • Protect workers in the landscape industry.
  • Address the noise nuisance this machinery creates.
  • Reduce greenhouse-gas and other air pollution, some of it toxic, from the use of these devices.
  • Promote interest in healthier lawn and land care practices.

We want this space to raise awareness in the legal community and in the public regarding the best use of the instruments of law to address these issues, and the finest examples of community deliberation and decision-making.

With your contributions, this blog’s posts will present Individual cases and examples of legal actions taken to bring about clean, green and serene communities will be posted.  In each post we will strive to continually ask: How can we deal with this issue in the optimal way?  What is the best way to use governance – at all levels – to  impel the momentum that will give us the results that we want?

Some topics that upcoming blog entries will address are:

  • Reviving federal noise law. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has authority to control noise, but gets no funding to do this. The fact that these laws exist without enforcement creates a legal void and effectively blocks states and communities from acting on their own. Through this blog we would like to develop a model community ordinance and gather information about legal resources.
  • Worker protection. Regulations to protect users from both the noise of these machines and the fumes they emit are scattershot and often nonexistent.
  • Warnings and certifications of quiet technologies and practices. Consumers need to know what they’re getting, and the best practices that they can take.
  • Education of legal professionals and local officials in the tools available to them.
  • Air pollution, including regulation of the toxic, ultrafine particulate air pollution in the exhaust from these small gas-powered engines that are a hazard to workers and the public alike.

Calls to ban or limit use of these machines get attention, but we believe that public discussion should look first at setting goals – and then look at all options available to reach those goals. Whatever rules we adopt will be more likely to withstand challenge, and garner wider acceptance, if we fully engage in the process of considering our options first.

Our address for your contributions, and your questions, is [email protected].

Rick Reibstein is a lecturer in environmental law and policy at Boston University and Harvard Extension School. He co-chairs the Quiet Communities Legal Advisory Council with Jeanne Kempthorne, founder of the Good Neighbor Mediation Project, Salem, MA, and a former civil litigator and federal prosecutor.

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