California Bans All Small Gasoline-Powered Engines – Problem for Lawncare
On January 1, 2024 landscape companies along with homeowners in California are facing massive changes in how they will manage lawn care and property maintenance. Under a new California law, they will have to give up their gasoline-powered string trimmers, lawnmowers, hedge trimmers, chainsaws, and leaf blowers otherwise known in industry jargon as small off-road engines (SORE).
The new rules – part of Gov. Newsom’s “California Comeback Plan” were signed into law on October 9th. Assembly Bill 1346 not only affects existing machinery, it also requires that new portable gas-powered generators must be zero-emission by 2028. In September 2020 the governor issued an executive order moving California to “transition to 100 percent zero-emission off-road vehicles and equipment by 2035 where feasible.”
California seeks to reduce air pollution with small gas engine ban
California has long been a leader in groundbreaking initiatives. The government has already stated its goal of banning all gasoline-powered vehicles in the coming years and eliminating the reliance on fossil fuels. People around the United States are now wondering if the California war on small gasoline-powered engines will spread nationwide.
The bill says that “currently, there are zero-emission equivalents to all SORE equipment regulated by the State Air Resources Board. The battery technology required for commercial-grade zero-emission equipment is available and many users, both commercial and residential, have already begun to transition to zero-emission equipment.”
“This is a pretty modest approach to trying to limit the massive amounts of pollution that this equipment emits, not to mention the health impact on the workers who are using it constantly,” Marc Berman, the bill’s author says.
“These noisy machines are terribly disruptive to communities across California, and the workers who breathe in exhaust from this equipment day in and day out face disproportionate health risks, including asthma, cardiovascular disease, and cancer,” Berman adds. “Small gas engines are not only bad for our environment and contributing to our climate crisis, but they can also cause asthma and other health issues for workers who use them,” said Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego), a co-sponsor of the bill. “It’s time we phased out these super polluters, and help small landscaping businesses transition to cleaner alternatives.”
How the gas engine ban will affect small businesses and farms
Republicans and some Democrats oppose the law. Many are concerned about how the restrictive rules will affect small businesses and farms in rural California. There are also concerns about how the ban on gas-powered chainsaws will affect firefighters who rely on them to cut brush during California’s frequent wildfires. In 2020 California was said to temporarily have the worst air quality in the world because of wildfires.
“This Legislature hates fuel, which is very sustainable. It’s easy to access. And when the power is off, you can still use it. You can still run a generator to keep your freezer going, to keep your medical devices going. But when your battery’s dead and there’s no power on, you have nothing,” Sen. Brian Dahle (R-Bieber) said.
According to Andrew Bray, the vice president of government relations for the National Association of Landscape Professionals, “These companies are going to have to completely retrofit their entire workshops to be able to handle this massive change in voltage so they’re going to be charged every day.”
“This is the most impactful step our state can take to fight climate change,” said Governor Newsom. “For too many decades, we have allowed cars to pollute the air that our children and families breathe. Californians shouldn’t have to worry if our cars are giving our kids asthma.”
Last year the governor signed legislation requiring that by 2035 all new cars and other vehicles in his state be zero-emission powered by electric batteries. His order also required new bus and truck sales to also be EV’s (electric vehicles) by the year 2045. A state press release says, “The executive order will not prevent Californians from owning gasoline-powered cars or selling them on the used car market.” Fifteen countries have started similar initiatives.
The California Air Resources Board (CARB) will regulate the new small-engine law, which will be implemented by January 2024. The law applies to vehicles and devices powered by up to 25 horsepower engines including industrial uses, logging equipment, golf carts, and specialty vehicles. It is not known yet if the rules will apply to off-road vehicles, dirt bikes, and ATV’s.
The legislation includes $30 million dollars for rebates to cover the cost of converting from gas-powered equipment to electric, but it won’t be enough according to some. A new professional gasoline-powered riding lawn mower by some estimates costs between $7,000 – $11,000. An all-electric version costs twice that amount.
Replacing gas-powered mowers and lawn tools will affect millions of homeowners
The Outdoor Power Equipment Institute reports that Americans own some 100-million gasoline-powered lawn mowers, string trimmers and other equipment. 54-million of us mow the lawn every week.
According to a recent Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) study “GLGE (gasoline-powered lawn and garden equipment) is an important source of toxic and carcinogenic exhaust and fine particulate matter.” Because mowers and other small gasoline-powered engines are not equipped with catalytic converters as automobiles are they pollute more. One hour of operating GLGE is equal to 11 hours of “driving a 2017 Toyota Camry from Los Angeles to Denver” according to the Associated Press. It is estimated that GLGE makes up some 5% of air pollution in California.
In a press statement CARB says, “The transportation sector is responsible for more than half of all of California’s carbon pollution, 80 percent of smog-forming pollution and 95 percent of toxic diesel emissions – all while communities in the Los Angeles Basin and Central Valley see some of the dirtiest and most toxic air in the country.”
Increased costs for landscape and lawn care businesses
In California, there are some 16.7 million small engines working in the construction and farming sector, residential lawn and garden equipment, and commercial lawn and garden (9% of the total). Most are used by small businesses which some say will be unduly affected by the lawn equipment ban.
Some are calling this initiative a small business disaster. Most landscapers are owned by self-employed individuals with perhaps only a few employees. They have invested in large gasoline-powered riding lawn mowers, push mowers and other lawn maintenance equipment. Replacing all of that equipment will be expensive.
Landscapers will have to invest in dozens of batteries to run the new electric equipment during a long workday. And where will those batteries be charged when away from the home office? How will some 50,000 small California businesses pay for this overhaul in how they work?
If you’d like to learn more about how GPS Trackit can help to improve safety, increase productivity and reduce costs for your business, speak with one of our knowledgeable Fleet Advisors at 866-320-5810 or get a quick Custom Quote.
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