March 15, 2024

The Portland City Council voted Wednesday, March 13, to phase out the use of all gas-powered leaf blowers by 2028. The ban applies to both public and private property.

Two-stroke combustion engines, commonly used in gas-powered leaf blowers, mix oil and gasoline and emit harmful substances including carbon monoxide, nitrous oxides, ozones, and carcinogens. It’s estimated that one hour of operation emits the same amount of pollutants as driving a Toyota Camry about 1,100 miles, or the distance from Portland to San Diego. 

Gas-powered leaf blowers also contribute to hearing damage and noise pollution. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, extended exposure to sounds at or above 85 decibels can damage hearing. Gas-powered leaf blowers frequently exceed those levels, harming operators and causing noise pollution to nearby residents and businesses. 

Beginning in 2026, gas-powered leaf blowers will be prohibited for two years, except during the fall and winter. After those two years, in 2028, gas blowers will be banned in the fall and winter as well. Those who violate the policy will face a fine of up to $1,000.

Chair Jessica Vega Pederson, who testified in support of the measure, praised the action, saying it will improve air and noise quality for community members, while also taking into consideration the needs of landscapers, businesses and operators. 

“Today marks an important milestone in the quest for a healthier and more sustainable community, ‘’ Chair Vega Pederson said.

Multnomah County will take the lead on creating incentives to offset costs for small landscaping businesses that may be impacted by the change. Now that the City of Portland has adopted the ordinance, the County will get to work designing an incentive program and outreach and education campaign.

“Incentives will be designed with small businesses in mind,” said Multnomah County Sustainability Director John Wasiutynski. “Our goal with incentives and outreach and education is to connect with the people who will most need financial help and this information, especially people for whom English is a second language.” Pending board budget approval, the plan is to begin these programs in July of 2024.   More information on that work will be shared

Chair Vega Pederson, then a County commissioner, first began work on leaf blowers with City Commissioner Nick Fish in 2019. After Fish died in 2020, and a pause during the COVID-19 pandemic, City Commissioner Carmen Rubio took up the effort.  

“The truth is that the technology for an all electric decarbonized future is available now,’’ said Chair Vega Pederson. “But, it will take public policy and partnerships like this one to accelerate the transition  and ensure we hit our climate targets in time to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.”