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Lawmaker Wants To Stop 'Coal Rollers' From Intentionally Blasting Black Smoke

By Shaun Boyd

DENVER (CBS4) - While some automakers spend billions of dollars trying to reduce emissions spewing out of cars and trucks -- some motorists are bucking the system, creating a lot of smoke.

Some diesel truck owners are modifying their engines and disabling pollution controls so they can intentionally blast black smoke. It's called "rolling coal" and some state lawmakers want to stop it.

(credit: YouTube)

Coal rollers, as they call themselves, have posted videos online of souped-up diesels spewing clouds of black soot, making it impossible to see, and in some cases, hard to breathe.

"I didn't even know what this was," said Rep. Joann Ginal, D-Fort Collins.

Fort Collins is one of the places where it's become increasingly popular, especially along College Avenue.

Rep. Joann Ginal, D-Fort Collins
CBS4's Shaun Boyd interviews Rep. Joann Ginal, D-Fort Collins (credit: CBS)

"It's not only affecting bicyclists and pedestrians, but also police. There's black soot being deposited on police officers and they can't go after that particular person until they can see," Ginal said.

In addition to police, coal rollers are targeting hybrid vehicles as a form of protest against environmental regulations, calling the smoke "Prius repellant."

Ginal says it's a growing issue in Colorado. Law enforcement received more than 200 complaints last year.

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"I've heard from people in Montrose. I've heard from people in some of the resort towns in the mountains where they do rely on tourism and outdoor restaurants, and this has been an issue. Public safety is at risk here. You're blocking people's vision and respiratory issues are at hand here," Ginal said.

Her bill would make it illegal to modify exhaust systems on diesel trucks and to intentionally release smoke. Right now, it's only illegal if the exhaust lasts five seconds. Violators would face a $35 fine and two points on their driver's license.

(credit: YouTube)

"To me it's a form of bullying or passive aggressive behavior that people are doing and it needs to stop."

Colorado's sheriffs, police and the Department of Health among those supporting the bill. New Jersey has already banned rolling coal.

Shaun Boyd is CBS4's political specialist. She's a veteran reporter with more than 25 years of experience. Follow her on Twitter @cbs4shaun.

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