Several members of the Albany County Legislature met Tuesday, Sept. 29 for three public hearings-one of which to discuss a proposed law that would limit motor vehicles to idling for no longer than three minutes while the vehicle is not in motion.
The law was introduced by Albany County Legislator Chris Higgins, D-Albany, several years ago, he said. But now, Higgins said the time is appropriate to enact the law to protect the people, and the air quality, of his district.
During Tuesday's public hearing, Russ Haven, legislative counsel for the New York Public Interest Research Group, was the only person who spoke, though his statistics seemed to resonate with many of the legislators.
Haven cited the Clean Air Task Force and said that by 2010, as a result of diesel soot, there are projected to be 22 premature deaths, 22 non-fatal heart attacks, 12 cases of chronic bronchitis and 390 asthma attacks in Albany County. As a result, Haven said there is expected to be 2,330 lost work days and 13, 631 minor restricted activity days.
More specifically, Haven spoke of the effect of auto emissions on children, labeling conditions that can result from breathing in too much polluted air to the No. 1 reason students are absent from school. This is likely causing students to miss school, having a detrimental effect on educating the county's k-12 students, he said.
Haven pointed out the success of similar laws in New York City and Westchester County in which idling laws, to some degree, have been in place for the last several years.
"We all do thoughtless things," he said. "But when we're educated, we can change our behavior."
Higgins' law does have certain exceptions that will be made on a case-by-case basis, he said. Some of the exceptions written in the law, called Local Law O, are for when a motor vehicle is idling due to traffic conditions in which the operator has no control; vehicles that require to maintain a certain temperature and thus need to be left on; a vehicle that is loading or unloading cargo; heavy duty construction vehicles that are owned and operated by those engaging in mining and quarrying; a hybrid vehicle which needs to idle to provide energy for its battery; an electric vehicle; or a motor vehicle that is not powered by a diesel engine and the "ambient air temperature" is 32 degrees Fahrenheit.
As for the enforcement, Higgins said, if passed, it will be up to the individual municipalities in the county to determine how the law will be enforced.
For more information, check back at www.spotlightnews.com, or read the Wednesday, Oct. 7 print edition of the Colonie Spotlight.