Nassau County Legislator Kevan Abrahams (D-Hempstead) was joined by local environmentalists and health advocates this week 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.
“Nassau County can do better when it comes to improving its air quality and protecting the health of its residents,” Abrahams said. “I believe this package of environmental initiatives will bring us closer to that goal, while also serving as a tool to educate our residents.”
New York City and Suffolk, Westchester, Rockland, Putnam, Orange and Ulster counties have passed or proposed similar environmental legislation that addresses air quality of the entire downstate region.
The ordinance, sponsored by Legislator David Denenberg (D-Merrick), 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.
“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, Abrahams said.
“With the eventual implementation of this legislation in Nassau County, and throughout the surrounding regions, residents can breathe a little bit easier,” Abrahams said.