Friday, May 24, 2024

Idling While Earth Burns

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By Norah Christianson

I understand there is a law in Connecticut against idling an engine for more than three minutes, but I see this law being disregarded all around Stratford. I live a block from the Housatonic River, and I walk to Bond’s Dock or Birdseye Dock most days. There I see people in their cars and pick-up trucks idling their motors for long periods of time, polluting our atmosphere while they enjoy their vehicles’ air conditioning in the summer, heat in the winter, or just listening to their radios. (If they won’t consider the polluting they’re doing, I would think they’d be mindful of their pocketbooks. Gas is expensive!)

On some days, the docks will literally stink with the stench of their exhaust. Idling vehicles are also a problem at Long Beach and Short Beach in Stratford. People sit in their cars for hours at a time, engine running for their comfort, enjoying the splendid—and critically threatened—sky and seascape.

As we know, Greenhouse gases are an enormous contributor to climate change. In addition to the pollutant carbon dioxide (CO2), automobiles using gasoline emit methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) from the tailpipe. These gases trap heat in the earth’s atmosphere. It breaks my heart and it makes me angry to see people polluting the atmosphere in the beautiful places I speak of above. Or anywhere. What I don’t see is “NO IDLING” signs.

[Note: Last June I spoke to a woman sitting in her car, the engine running for a period of over 30 minutes, while her dog was being seen inside the veterinarian’s office. I approached her. I was friendly. Meek, even. I used the words “global warming” and “pollution,” and, smiling, asked if she might turn her engine off. The rage and the swearing I received was epochal. And because I’m dogged—and dumb—a month later, at Bond’s dock, I spoke gently to a man in an old pick-up which was emitting black smoke. The result: expletives even I don’t use, and then the hostile retaliatory revving/roaring of his engine. My kids have told me not to do this again—warning that I might get shot. A joke, but not so unrealistic. Such is the tenor of our age.]

I have written to the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection about illegal idling. (According to information on-line, the Department of Energy considers idling for more than three minutes an infraction. This from the Department of Energy: “An infraction applies to violators of these regulations (against idling) for the first offense, and a fine from $100 to $500 applies for each succeeding offense.” In my letter to the Connecticut DEEP, I asked if signs prohibiting idling could be put up around our town. I never received a reply from DEEP, nor was I referred to any other agency.

This May I wrote to Mayor Laura Hoydick (with a copy of my letter to DEEP), asking her if “No Idling” signs could be put up (complete with the fines printed on them), and expressing hope that this law would be enforced. I never received a reply.

Because people selfishly insist on their comfort, our earth is burning. OUR EARTH IS BURNING. The least we can do is turn off our engines while we sit and stare. Can our town please enforce the No Idling law?

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