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Act fast on 'old clunkers,' city urged

Critics slam 5-year shift to greener equipment

Apr 29, 2009

PAUL MOLONEY
CITY HALL BUREAU

Toronto could send a stronger message to go green on issues such as the use of polluting two-stroke engines if it moved faster to clean up its own house, critics say.

The city has 1,380 pieces of equipment with small, dirty engines of the type city council has pondered banning in Toronto – including 431 weed trimmers, 343 chainsaws, 208 mowers and 193 leaf blowers.

This week, a staff report rejected the idea of switching immediately to cleaner equipment because it would cost $855,000. Instead, it recommends phasing them out over five years.

Back in mid-2007, when city council passed its Climate Change, Clean Air and Sustainable Energy Action Plan, councillors asked staff to look into whether two-stroke engines could be phased out by 2009 and banned altogether in home and garden equipment by 2010.

This week's report recommends against a ban because it would be hard to enforce.

"It's disappointing," said Franz Hartmann, executive director of the Toronto Environmental Alliance. "Council quite specifically said: 'Report back on what a ban would look like.' This is not in the report and should be in the report."

Mayor David Miller may be touting his green plan as a centrepiece of his administration, but he has taken flak for going too slow on many parts of it. A ban on noisy, high-emission leaf blowers has been floated but never gained council support.

If councillors won't go for a ban, they should at least replace the city's own equipment right away, said Councillor Michael Walker.

"Why is it taking another five years to bring the city in line?" Walker said. "We look terrible when we say we can't do it because we don't have enough money. Poppycock."

The city could do more to encourage citizens to dump their polluting leaf blowers, said Keith Stewart of the World Wildlife Fund. An even better option than new equipment is to go with hand tools, he said.

Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker, a long-time environmentalist who chairs the public works and infrastructure committee, said the gradual approach will pay off.

"We wanted to get rid of our old clunkers and replace them with new machinery, which we're doing," he said. "The staff plan, although incremental and cautious, is still a very solid one."

As published at: http://www.thestar.com/News/GTA/article/626055

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