California to ban gas-powered leaf blowers, lawn mowers

Thomas Catenacci, DCNF

A California environmental regulator approved a measure banning new purchases of small off-road engines including leaf blowers and lawn mowers beginning in 2024.

The measure will also affect portable generators and recreational vehicle engines which will need to meet “more stringent standards” in 2024 and zero-emission standards in 2028, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) announcedThursday. The vote was part of the state’s aggressive climate program and goal to achieve a “zero-emission future” as outlined by an executive order Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom signed in September 2020.

“Today’s action by the Board addresses these small but highly polluting engines. It is a significant step towards improving air quality in the state, and will definitely help us meet stringent federal air quality standards,” CARB Chair Liane Randolph said in a statement. “It will also essentially eliminate exposure to harmful fumes for equipment operators and anyone nearby.”

The board said that residents and businesses would be allowed to continue using older and used equipment beyond 2024 but that new products would need to have no carbon footprint.

Engines regulated by the measure are major emitters and, without the rule, they are on track to double the amount of smog produced by passenger cars in 10 years, according to CARB. Leaf blowers alone emit more in one hour than a car does in 1,100 miles.

Overall, the agency projected the measure would reduce “smog-forming” emissions by 72 tons per day.

“The new sales will start to make this transition to what’s much cleaner as well as quieter equipment,” Bill Magavern, the policy director at the Coalition for Clean Air, told the Los Angeles Times. “That’s going to be a major health improvement for the workers who use the equipment and for residents who are exposed, as well as everybody in the region because smog is really a regional problem.”

However, landscaping businesses and industry groups opposed the measure, arguing that the new equipment would be a major added cost, according to the Times. One estimate said a three-man landscaping crew would need 30-40 charged batteries to power their work per day.

“The cost of transition would be significant and probably kill my small business,” said Elizabeth Burns, the president of a landscaping business in Torrance, California, the Times reported.

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