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Nassau County Legislature

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Denenberg sponsors environmental package

to curb air pollution and improve public health

Nassau County Legislator Dave Denenberg (D-Merrick), was joined by local environmentalists and health advocates today in announcing clean air legislation aimed at protecting public health and the environment by curbing diesel emissions. The package includes an ordinance that will limit the amount of time drivers can idle their motor vehicle engines in Nassau County as well as a law that requires the use of clean diesel fuel and the installation of filter devices on most County vehicles as well as vehicles used by County contractors that perform County work.

“Nassau County can do better when it comes to improving its air quality and protecting the health of its residents,” said Legislator Denenberg, chair of the Planning, Development and Environment Committee and sponsor of the law. “I believe this package of environmental initiatives will bring us closer to that goal, while also serving as a tool to educate our residents.”

Legislator Denenberg has worked tirelessly representing Nassau County at several regional environmental seminars attended by officials from New York City and Suffolk, Westchester, Rockland, Putnam, Orange and Ulster counties. All of the surrounding areas have passed or proposed similar environmental legislation that addresses air quality of the entire downstate region.

Legislator Denenberg’s proposed engine idling ordinance prohibits a driver from idling any diesel-powered vehicle longer than three minutes while parked, unless the engine is used to operate a loading, unloading or processing device. The law would not affect emergency vehicles and buses would be allowed to idle for longer than three minutes when the temperature is below 40 degrees.

Violators of the idling law can be fined up to $500 or receive jail time for the first offense; up to $1000 and jail time for the second; and up to $5000 and jail time for the third subsequent offense. The Legislature is also proposing signage requirements to notify the public of the new law.

The second environmental law is aimed at reducing pollutants from the County diesel-powered vehicles by requiring that they use a less polluting ultra low sulfur diesel fuel and that the County’s diesel fleet to be retrofitted with advanced emission control systems. The use of ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel will reduce emissions of sulfur compounds which have been blamed for acid rain.

“Fortunately, newer engines have become cleaner due to improved emission control technologies. However, the continued use of older trucks without modern filters and allowing these vehicles to idle excessively is hindering progress in improving regional air quality,” Legislator Denenberg said. Vehicle exhaust is a source of cancer causing carbon monoxide, particulate matter as well as, toxic air contaminants and greenhouse gases.

“Nassau County and other public agencies can play an important role in improving air quality by limiting the amount of time motor vehicle engines are allowed to idle within the county,” said Marcia Bystryn, Executive Director of the New York League of Conservation Voters.

“The United States Environmental Protection Agency has identified 21 chemicals in truck and bus exhaust that are known or suspected to cause cancer, respiratory disease and other serious health effects,” stated Kasey Jacobs, program coordinator for Citizens Campaign for the Environment. “The idling legislation is a common sense, no-cost approach to protecting the health of school children, our environment and saving energy.”

The young and elderly are also particularly vulnerable to these pollutants and irritants, Denenberg said.

“With the eventual implementation of this legislation in Nassau County, and throughout the surrounding regions, residents can breathe a little bit easier,” Denenberg said.

The idling ordinance passed unanimously and the ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel law will go before the full legislature at the next session, on November 13.