"Idle-Free" Campaign Bears Fruit Statewide

Richard Gregg

12/19/2008

Legislation banning unnecessary vehicle engine idling on school ground, signed into law in December by Gov. Deval Patrick, is an outgrowth of a movement started in 2001 by Richard Gregg, operating director of Healthcare Programs in the Sawyer Business School.

Gregg’s mission began one day in 2001 in Lenox while he was waiting for his daughter and son to emerge from school. He noticed that other parents sat in their cars with the engines running and soon became aware that people all over town were idling their cars for long periods.

“What comes out of that is highly toxic for both human health and the environment," said Gregg.  "Motor vehicle exhaust can cause a variety of respiratory ailments, and exhaust from diesel vehicles has been linked to lung cancer.”

Gregg began a successful local campaign, then encouraged a student to carry the effort to the Legislature.

Rep. Stephen R. Canessa (D-New Bedford), a Suffolk University alumnus, filed the bill “An Act to Improve School Campus Air Quality” along with with Sen. Benjamin B. Downing (D-Pittsfield) and 48 cosponsors. That bill became law this week.

While studying for his MBA at the Business School, Canessa had been inspired by Gregg's class in leadership and decision-making.

“Unnecessary engine idling on school campuses can negatively impact students, faculty, visitors to the schools, and folks in those vehicles,” Canessa told the Cape Cod Times. “It really is an issue of public health and public safety, even a fuel conservation effort."

The new anti-idling law, which calls for a $100 fine for the first offense and $500 fines for subsequent violations, will take effect after the Department of Environmental Protection prepares detailed regulations. Income from the fines will support environmental education.

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