You may have heard that California is poised to become the first state in the nation to phase out the use of gas-powered lawn equipment, aka blowers, mowers, and trimmers.
Depending on your preferences and threshold for pain, you’re either leaping for joy right now or speed dialing your lawyer to file a blocking lawsuit in support of your neighborhood mow-and-blow person.
But the fact remains that Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed a bill Saturday requiring new small off-road engines (SOREs) – which found a niche use primarily with landscaping companies – to be zero-emission by 2024. Newsom’s legislation comes with $30 million in funding to help ease the pain of transition to quieter, cleaner gear.
So far, the governor’s move has been hailed by interested members of the public and agencies charged with keeping California’s worsening air scrubbed clean. Protests have also surfaced, largely from landscaper’s organizations. Battle lines, or lawns, are being drawn.
“Small gas engines are not only bad for our environment and contributing to our climate crisis, they can cause asthma and other health issues for workers who use them,” said California Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D), an author of the bill, in a statement. “It’s time we phased out these super polluters.”
On the other side of the suburban fence is Andrew Bray, vice president of government relations for the National Association of Landscape Professionals, who told the Washington Post: “We are not trying to say we want gas powered equipment forever. We get it, [electric is] coming. All we’re asking for is a little more time.”
Some say we’ve waited long enough, air pollution has gotten bad enough, and the trend to electric is here and finally gaining majority acceptance.
Officials at the California Air Resources Board (CARB) say operating a gas leaf blower for an hour can create as much pollution as driving a Toyota Camry for 1,100 miles. CARB officials also estimate that there are currently some 14.4 million SOREs pumping away in the residential and commercial lawn equipment sector.
Others claim California is merely riding a trend many say is already underway, with manufacturers shipping more electric-powered units and some saying they’ll stop making gas-powered machines by March 2022.
Many feel Newsom’s legislation and the trend toward electrification will adversely – and unfairly – impact small landscaping companies who say they depend on the more powerful gas-powered equipment to cover more ground more quickly so they can tend to more customers and thus make more money.
The cost of an electric mower is double that of a gas model, is less powerful and can only be used for short periods of time, their users say. The equipment’s failings may also lead to higher prices being passed on to customers used to low rates.
We think it’s understood that things don’t move swiftly in the 24/680 or California when it comes to gas-powered gear. Other delays and challenges could probably best be described as inevitable.
But as the bow of the ship begins to turn and small towns and even some states enact their own brand of leaf blower restrictions, more officials turn to California for an indication of public sentiment and how things could be expected to go if they move to enforce adoption of quieter, lower emissions equipment.