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The Journal Gazette

September 21, 2016 1:01 AM

New protest: Truckers and a cloud of smoke

The New York Times reported recently on a growing phenomenon: pollution as a political statement.

“Coal-rollers” are diesel pickup truck drivers who remove emissions controls from their engines to belch heavy black smoke. Some have been known to target pedestrians, cyclists and Prius drivers with the noxious smoke, according to the report. A favorite bumper sticker for coal-rollers is “Prius Repellent.”

Sgt. Chris Worthington of the Montrose (Colorado) Police Department underwent training at “smoke school” to learn how to police the vehicles.

“You can hear those trucks across town, driving like idiots,” he told the Times. Complaints over diesel smoke in Colorado have increased more than 5 percent in the last two years. The California Air Resources Board is averaging 1,000 complaints a month.

New Jersey became the first state to ban the practice of rolling coal. Tim Eustace, a state assemblyman who drives an electric vehicles, proposed the law after he was engulfed in black smoke.

“Momentarily, you can’t see anything,” Eustace said. “It’s terrifying.”

Coal rollers are unapologetic. In Roanoke, Illinois, Corey Blue sent a letter to Will Guzzardi, a state representative who has proposed a $5,000 fine on anyone who removes or alters emissions equipment.

“Why don’t you go live in Sweden and get the heck out of our country,” Blue wrote. “I will continue to roll coal anytime I feel like and fog your stupid eco-cars.”

Coal-rolling originates from truck-pulling competitions. When the Environmental Protection Agency issued new truck emissions standards this month, it emphasized that trucks used in motor sports were not affected.