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Idle Thoughts about Denver International Airport

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The City of Denver just loves to stare at itself in the mirror and marvel at how green it has become. “Mirror, mirror on the wall: Who’s the greenest of them all?” it asks, while turning around to see how its ass looks in these new post-consumer-material jeans. No matter that it’s not wearing a shirt or tie because government buildings are so goddamn hot ever since Hick turned the air-conditioning down. Beauty is pain.

The city’s oh-so-fashionable Greenprint Denver web site lists about a billion tips on how to help the environment, as well as its own Executive Order 123, the official sustainability policy passed in October 2007. Highlights of the policy include commitments to energy and water conservation, recycling and reducing the environmental impact of city vehicles. The site also flaunts Denver International Airport as an environmental leader, citing its status as the first airport in the nation to be awarded membership in the Environmental Protection Agency’s Performance Track. The EPA lauded DIA for commiting to a 1 percent annual decrease in gasoline used in its fleet vehicles, a portion of which comes from employee education regarding the idling of engines. Because we all know how environmentally irresponsible idling is – how it decreases fuel efficiency and reduces the life of vehicles’ exhaust systems; how it burns some 3.8 million unnecessary gallons of gasoline and is responsible for 40,000 tons of carbon monoxide released into the air each year; oh, and how it’s illegal.

Yup. According to the City and County of Denver Municipal Code (Chapter 4, Section 4-43), city investigators responding to complaints of excessive idling can issue violators a summons.

But those investigators obviously aren’t spending much time over at DIA’s 45 Minute Waiting Area, where people just love to sit in their air-conditioned vehicles with their radios on and admire how good they look in the mirrors of their SUVs. Considering how much of an obvious hot spot this is for idlers, and given the city’s commitment to educating its own about this most grievous of environmental sins, you’d think a little 4-1-1 would be in order for people with a penchant for arriving early -- possibly in the form of official signage reminding drivers to turn their autos off while waiting? But no.

“I’m speechless,” says Janell Barrilleaux, director of environmental services for DIA, when asked why the airport doesn’t do something about those idlers violating city code. “I just never thought about it. That doesn’t mean I won’t do something now.”

In fact, DIA’s already doing something: waiting for other city initiatives that are working on no-idling signs. “We’d rather have a consistent message throughout the city,” continues Barrilleaux. “That’s why we’re waiting.”

What about the throngs of idlers on city property who are currently mucking up the air? Shouldn’t they be held accountable for their lawlessness?

“That’s true,” Barrilleaux admits. “It’s against the city ordinance, though I don’t know how well that’s enforced. The key to the idling issue is outreach and education. And clearly these people don’t understand that by idling they’re burning more fuel than probably it would cost to go park for an hour. Maybe a little education is necessary.”

You got that right, sister. -- Drew Bixby

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