How California’s New Ban on Leaf Blowers, Lawn Mowers, and Other Gas-Powered Outdoor Equipment Affects You

Buying a new gasoline blower, lawn mower, trimmer, chainsaw, or other outdoor gardening tool in California that runs on fossil fuels may soon be a part of the pass.

Governor Gavin Newsom last week signed the country’s first law requiring new small engine equipment used in landscaping to emit zero pollution – that is, battery-powered or plug-in-only models – as soon as January 1st. 2024.

The new law is getting a lot of attention. Here are the facts:

Question: Are not some cities already banning gasoline leaf blowers? They can be loud.

A: Yes. Belvedere, Berkeley, Beverly Hills, Carmel, Claremont, Indian Wells, Los Altos, Los Gatos, Malibu, Mill Valley, Mountain View, Newport Beach, Oakland, Ojai, Palo Alto, Piedmont, Santa Barbara, Solana Beach, Sunnyvale, Tiburon and West Hollywood is one of the cities in California that has banned or limited noise levels from gas-powered leaf blowers.

Question: So what is this new law?

A: Newsom signed Assembly Bill 1346, written by Congressman Marc Berman, D-Palo Alto. It demands that the California Air Resources Board, an agency in Sacramento that regulates air pollution, pass statewide rules by July 1, 2022 that “ban exhaust fumes and evaporative emissions “from” new small all-terrain engines “in a way that is” cost effective and technologically feasible. “

Question: What kinds of tools will this include?

A: The State Air Board defines “small all-terrain engines” as combustion engines of less than 25 gross horsepower, including those found in lawn mowers, string trimmers, chain saws. , golf carts, generators and pumps.

Question: Does this mean I need to get rid of my lawn mower or brush cutter?

A: No. The law only applies to sales of new equipment. But you won’t be able to buy new gasoline-powered gardening tools in California after it goes into effect.

Question: When does it take effect?

A: January 1, 2024, or as soon as the air commission “determines that it is feasible, whichever is later.” In other words, the earliest the rules would go into effect is around 26 months from now.

Question: It looks a bit like nanny state stuff. Do these things really pollute that much?

A: According to Air Board scientists, yes. The state began regulating emissions from small off-road engines in 1990. But the rules have not been updated in years, even as standards for cars, oil refineries and others. sources of smog have increased.

Using the best-selling gasoline leaf blower for 1 hour now emits the same amount of air pollution (nitrogen oxides and reactive organic gases, which form smog) as driving a 2017 Toyota Camry, 1,100 miles, according to the air commission. It’s like driving from the Bay Area to Denver. Running a gasoline mower for 1 hour emits the same amount of air pollution as driving a car for 300 miles, about as far as a road trip from Los Angeles to Las. Vegas.

Question: But are there really that many?

A: Yes. There are 16.7 million small engines in California, compared to 13.7 million passenger cars.

In fact, this year, total emissions from small engines have now exceeded total emissions from all passenger cars in California, at around 150 tonnes per day from each source, air commission reports.

Question: What about landscaping companies?

A: This law also applies to them. And many are not happy. The National Association of Lawn Professionals opposed the bill, saying that while there are many power garden tools for sale to homeowners at places like Home Depot, Lowe’s and other stores, there are no not as many heavy commercial models available. They note that batteries need to be recharged regularly and that the equipment often costs more than gas-powered alternatives.

“We support a responsible transition to this equipment when the equipment is ready,” said Andrew Bray, vice president of the association. “Currently, the equipment has performance, cost and infrastructure issues. “

The organization said it would continue to pressure the Air Resources Board to push for more flexibility when drafting the rules.

Lawmakers included $ 30 million in the state budget this year to provide financial incentives for commercial landscaping companies, but the industry association says that’s not enough.

Question: Who supported the law?

A: American Lung Association, Sierra Club, Audubon California, Bay Area Air Quality Management District, Natural Resources Defense Council, Physicians for Social Responsibility and the cities of Albany, Glendale, Mountain View, Palo Alto, San Jose and South Pasadena, among others. Supporters say the rules will also reduce the risk of asthma and other health problems among landscape workers.

Question: Was it adopted unanimously?

A: No, Republicans and some Democrats opposed it. It was passed by a 21-9 vote in the State Senate and 47-22 in the State Assembly.

The air council had already started a process to write new rules, and the law now sets a deadline. Newsom also signed a decree last year calling for the phase-out of these engines. It was the same landmark decree that banned the sale of gasoline cars in California after 2035 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Question: And the generators? Are sales of new gas generators really going to be banned?

A: They are included in the bill, but the air council said it likely won’t pass a ban on new sales until 2028 because alternatives, like battery models that charge from Solar panels, or fuel cell generators, are not yet as advanced as electric garden tools.

Question: Can I buy gasoline-powered equipment in other states after the new rules take effect?

A: Yes. But California often passes pollution laws first, then other states, and possibly the federal government, copy those rules. And with climate change exacerbating droughts, wildfires, and other problems, the trend in the United States, Europe and other regions is to electrify everything and generate more energy from it. solar, wind and other renewable energy sources.

DUBLIN, CA – OCTOBER 14: Pedro Ortiz of Allied Landscaping uses a gasoline-powered leaf blower to clean up leaves and yard debris in a Dublin townhouse community on Thursday, October 14, 2021 (Sarah Dussault / Bay Area News Group)

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