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New lawnmowers for some, while Boise taxpayers foot the bill

New lawnmowers for some, while Boise taxpayers foot the bill

April 10, 2010
April 10, 2010

A program to help 50 Boise residents trade in their gas-powered lawn powers for new electric models will cost taxpayers $4,850, even though there's little evidence to support the notion that the program will help the environment. This is Boise’s second year participating in an event called “Mow Down Pollution,” modeled after a Canadian environmental program by the same name.

The event will take place May 1, when 50 names of people who registered will be selected to receive a discount on a Neuton electric lawn mower. Neuton's mowers retail for almost $400, but Aimee Hughes with the Boise Public Works Department said the the mowers will be discounted to $289. "And then if you are one of the 50 that gets chosen from the drawing, you’ll get an additional $125 off of that,” said Hughes. The money comes from the city’s air quality budget, part of the general fund, as well as $1,000 contributions from the Treasure Valley Clean Cities Coalition, and $500 from Idaho Power.

But some are skeptical of the arrangement.

“At the end of the day, what do the city and the taxpayers get for it, except for the people who get the lawnmowers?" asked Rep. Lynn Luker, R-Boise. "Is it going to encourage other people to buy those mowers? I don’t think so, unless they get a subsidy, too."

Before last year’s Mow Down event, a press release contained some factoids about how much pollution is allegedly created by lawnmowers. It said lawn mowers account for 5% of air pollution in the Treasure Valley and that the average gas powered lawn mower produces as much pollution in one year as 43 new cars traveling 12,000 miles. That’s more than 500,000 miles, or 20.5 trips around the Equator.

But Wayne Elson with the Office of Air, Waste and Toxics at the EPA’s Seattle office said the figures are in dispute. “There was a source that some people had used that was incorrect, that has since been corrected.”

Regardless, Rep. Luker said if the city wants to encourage people to change out their mowers, a better approach would be a city product fair where all sorts of companies could display their own alternatives to gas-powered mowers. Of the city's $4,850 rebate program, “I don’t really see the point in spending the money," Luker said.

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