‘Lipstick on a pig:’ Dismayed Village of Pelham moving to buy 4 diesel garbage trucks

To the editor:

I sent the letter below to the Village of Pelham mayor and board of trustees on August 12. In the wake of the havoc wreaked by Hurricane Ida in Pelham, Westchester, Queens and other parts of the country, I am sharing publicly.

The Village of Pelham is planning to set up in-house garbage collection and has passed bond resolutions for over $2 million to set up the department and buy four new diesel garbage trucks (including $370,000 to buy two new garbage toters for every Pelham household).  See July 6, July 13 and Aug. 10 agendas and meetings and bond information.

I urge the Village of Pelham to hit pause on the purchase of four diesel garbage trucks which will contribute to carbon, nitrous oxide and particulate emissions, and to global warming, for the next 20 years.

In November 2019, the village signed a two-year contract with our current carter, renewable for two one-year terms. I urge the village to renew the contract for the fourth year and to use the remaining time to thoroughly research other, non-polluting, options, like electric trucks, which are currently being used, or on order, in New York City, White Plains and Ossining.

To those who say electric trucks are too expensive: By one estimate, buying electric would make up for the increased upfront cost in six years in savings on fuel and maintenance and would continue to save thousands of dollars a year for the village after that. In addition, both state and federal governments provide grants for fleet electrification and more funding for this purpose may be on the way in the federal reconciliation bill. (We could also look at using American Rescue Plan or other state funding or “developer” money of which, according to the mayor at the June 22 work session, we have a “significant amount in the pot.”)

To those who say that Pelham’s purchase of four new diesels that will last for 20 years is too small a drop in the bucket to make a difference in global emissions or that these concerns are “esoteric,” I would liken our small village’s purchase of electric trucks to one person getting the Covid-19 vaccine. While one person by themselves may not make a difference, collectively our actions matter. As President Biden said last week in Queens, this is “code red” for humanity. We all need to do whatever we can. Consider this an investment in the future of our children. Let’s leave them with a habitable planet.

The letter to the board of trustees follows.

Dear Mayor and Board of Trustees:

I was surprised and dismayed to learn on Tuesday evening that the village appears to be moving full speed ahead with a plan to purchase four new diesel garbage trucks.

I do not know if irony is the right word, but it is certainly jarring to see this decision being made the same week as the release of the report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) alerting us all, once again, to the dangers we face from global warming, and a week after the village’s designation as a Clean Energy Community was touted on the village website, along with this quote from the mayor:

“Climate change is not just some theoretical, distant threat to our children,” said Pelham Mayor Mullen. “Its effects can already be seen and felt throughout the world. All levels of government should be embracing policies that push us closer to a fully renewable and sustainable future and we want Pelham to be known as a leader on this front.”

The local effects of climate change were further emphasized, to my mind, by the statements and pleas for help made at Tuesday’s board meeting by residents heavily impacted by recent flooding in the village. As you are no doubt aware, extreme rainfall events and flooding are exacerbated by global warming.

On Sept. 25, 2018, after that year’s IPCC report, EcoPel and concerned community members presented a letter signed by 70 members of the Pelham community, urging the Pelham Board of Education to do its utmost to ensure that the new Hutchinson Elementary School be built as a green, zero-emissions, sustainable building. In November of that year, a group wrote to all of Pelham’s elected officials, asking that all levels of government redouble their efforts to move us towards a sustainable future. We urged all village, town and other officials and community leaders to keep climate concerns top of mind in every project, purchase and plan going forward. We said, “Our children deserve no less.”

A group of local residents, including some among you, have been slowly, persistently and sometimes painfully, helping the village inch its way towards a more sustainable, climate-friendly future. From the village joining CCA, to switching to LED lighting, to the Solarize campaign, food scraps, EnergySmart and now Healthy Yards, we have been urging village and town residents to make investments in a sustainable future for Pelham, doing our best to convince our fellow Pelhamites that an extra dollar spent now will reap savings and benefits in the future, on an individual, community and global basis, contributing to their own family’s wellbeing and to the greater good. I have not done the math, but I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that our accomplishments and any gains made to date, any reductions in carbon emissions through our efforts since 2016, may very well be erased by village operation of four diesel-powered garbage trucks for the next 15 years. The story of Sisyphus comes to mind, as well as the phrase “lipstick on a pig.”

I implore you to pause the process and to rethink the decision to purchase four new carbon- and nitrous oxide-emitting, dangerous, particulate-spewing diesel garbage trucks which the village will be stuck with until 2037.

Thank you for your thoughtful consideration of these concerns.

Maryanne Joyce
142 Nyac Ave.