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IN THE NEWS- Idle Chatter: Downing touts idle-free bill
October 24, 2007

Idle Chatter:  Downng touts idle-free bill


Berkshire Eagle, Boston Bureau: Hillary Chabot- October 23


BOSTON — State lawmakers examined a bill hoping to ban all vehicles from idling on school grounds yesterday.

The move would keep school air clean and cut down on fuel consumption, said Sen. Benjamin B. Downing, D-Pittsfield, who testified on the bill yesterday.

"This is a simple step we can take to make our air quality on school campuses safer," said Downing, who filed the bill earlier this year.

The bill would ensure all vehicles shut down as soon as they park on school grounds, or drivers would face a $100 fine for the first offense and a $500 fine for subsequent offenses.

Cutting idling could save 1.3 million gallons of gas guzzled by idling vehicles in school areas in Massachusetts alone, Downing added. Idling vehicles are believed to have caused an evacuation at McCarthy Middle School in Chelmsford in 2005. The carbon monoxide sent eight teachers and students to the hospital.

The "Idle-Free" campaign, which originated in the Berkshires, hit a small speed-bump when Rep. Sarah Peake, D-Provincetown, asked about parents waiting for their children in extreme hot or cold temperatures.

The legislation does have a clause allowing vehicles to idle when the temperature falls below freezing so vehicles can stay warm. Downing was open to looking into a similar clause for parents on sweltering days so they can keep cool.

Rick Gregg, chairman of the "Idle-Free" Massachusetts Campaign of the American Lung Association of Massachusetts, also testified about the dangers of motor vehicle fumes, particularly for small children.

"I learned that many of the toxic chemicals contained in motor vehicle emissions are the same as those in secondhand tobacco smoke," Gregg said in written testimony.

The bill, co-sponsored by Sen. Pam Resor, D-Acton, should be reported out of the Natural Resources Committee favorably, Downing believes.


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