- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 23, 2009

NEW YORK | Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who has pushed an ambitious green agenda and cast himself as a national environmental leader, routinely runs afoul of his own anti-pollution policy by letting his official SUVs idle, sometimes for more than an hour.

In spot checks over the past week, Associated Press timed idling periods for the mayor’s city-owned SUVs, which shuttle him around the city or trail him when he takes the subway. The parked vehicles idled at least eight times for periods of 10 minutes to more than an hour.

The mayor earlier this year strengthened the city’s anti-idling law - which allows three minutes of idling - into what advocates call the nation’s toughest and promised a public awareness campaign.

“Those of us that want to leave a good life for our children and want to have clean air for us to breathe, and clean water to drink … it’s incumbent on us to really carry the fight,” he said at the signing.

Mr. Bloomberg’s SUVs are exempt from the law because they are considered emergency vehicles, but the city is trying to reduce idling, spokesman Stu Loeser said Wednesday.

The SUVs have devices enabling heat and radios to run without the engine. The devices don’t allow the air conditioning to run, but the vehicles are supposed to be parked in the shade when possible, Mr. Loeser said. Nearly every time AP noted the idling vehicles, temperatures were mild and they were parked in the shade.

Mr. Bloomberg sought to cast himself as a national environmental leader when he tested the waters for a possible presidential run last year.

He floated a plan to charge tolls on all vehicles entering Manhattan’s most congested areas to lure more people to mass transit. He wants the city’s taxi fleet to go hybrid, and he partnered with former President Bill Clinton to retrofit city buildings to use less energy.

David Pettit, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Southern California air program, said it’s troubling when environmental leaders don’t live the lifestyle they advocate.

“It doesn’t paint a very good picture when you see this kind of thing,” he said.

An Environmental Defense Fund report this year estimated that idling vehicles produce 130,000 tons of heat-trapping carbon dioxide each year in the city and emit smog-forming nitrogen oxides, soot and carbon monoxide. The pollutants are associated with a number of health problems.

Heather Mayer contributed to this report.

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