California regulators approve phase-out of new gas-powered lawn mowers and leaf blowers

California regulators voted Thursday to ban the sale of new gasoline-powered leaf blowers and lawn mowers from 2024 and portable generators by 2028, the latest step in the state’s aggressive efforts to reduce harmful pollutants and move to a carbon-free economy.

New California Air Resources Board regulations require all newly sold small engine equipment primarily used for landscaping to be zero-emissions by target dates, with a few exceptions.

The agency’s decision is based in part on the belief that battery technology will improve and zero-emission equipment will become more widely available before the requirements apply – although there is a annual review to determine if they are in the right direction and if regulations need to be changed or delayed.

The restriction applies to homeowners and commercial landscapers, and the ban also includes gasoline-powered trimmers, chainsaws and pressure washers. However, the regulation does not prohibit existing gas-powered equipment, which can continue to be used.

Combined, these small gasoline engines create as much smog-causing pollution in California as light passenger cars. There are about 15.4 million small all-terrain engines in California and they produce about 141 tonnes of smog-forming emissions per day, according to the agency.

Richard Corey, the agency’s executive director, told the board that the ban will provide significant health benefits for Californians, including those in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color, who tend to be most exposed to pollutants.

Environmental and public health advocates have praised the new regulations, saying the transition to zero-emission landscaping equipment and generators – battery-powered or plug-in – will not only reduce pollution , but will protect the health of landscaping workers, homeowners and tenants who are exposed to gas and oil fumes.

“New sales will start to make this transition to much cleaner, quieter equipment,” said Bill Magavern of the Coalition for Clean Air. “This is going to be a major improvement for the health of the workers who use the equipment and for the residents who are exposed, as well as for everyone in the area, because smog is really a regional problem.”

Agency staff told the board that the transition to zero-emission machines will result in an additional upfront cost for landscapers, which will be offset by the money they save on fuel, maintenance and repairs. . Reducing emissions will also prevent hundreds of premature deaths in the decades to come, as well as lower healthcare costs for those affected by carbon emissions, they said.

Landscaping companies have been adamantly opposed to the new restrictions, saying zero-emission commercial-grade equipment is prohibitive and less efficient than existing lawn mowers, leaf blowers and other small gasoline-powered machines used in the industry. . According to an industry representative, a three-person landscaping crew would need to carry 30 to 40 fully charged batteries to power their equipment for a full day’s work.

“The cost of the transition would be significant and would likely kill my small business,” Elizabeth Burns, president of Zone 24 Landscaping in Torrance, told the board.

Jeff Coad of small machine maker Briggs & Stratton told the Air Resources Board his company supports the move to zero-emission equipment, but said the target date of 2024 was unrealistic. The quality of zero-emission equipment such as commercial lawn mowers lags far behind that of gasoline-powered versions.

Air Resource Board member Hector De La Torre said that when the agency sets ambitious goals, as in this case, “99% of the time we get there”. If there are any problems in the future, however, the board will stop the process and reassess the situation.

“We are not blind to the realities of what is happening in the market,” he said.

According to the board of directors, running a professional gas-powered lawn mower for an hour emits as much pollution as driving a car from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. Running a backpack leaf blower for an hour emits pollution comparable to driving the same car from Los Angeles to Denver.

The Air Resources Board began work on the regulations after Governor Gavin Newsom issued an executive order in September 2020 requiring the state to “switch to 100% zero-emission all-terrain vehicles and equipment by 2035, to the extent possible “, which includes landscaping equipment. and portable generators.

In October, Newsom signed a law enshrining this policy in state law.

Assembly member Marc Berman (D-Menlo Park), author of the legislation, said the state has set aside $ 30 million to help landscapers and professional gardeners transition from equipment gasoline to zero emission equipment. Berman and members of the Air Resources Board agree that more money will be needed in the future, especially for smaller landscaping companies.

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