A bill that would phase out the the sale of new gas-powered small off-road engines (SORE), such as those found in lawnmowers, leaf blowers and generators, by 2024, was just signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom.
Assembly Bill 1346, authored by Assemblyman Marc Berman (D-Menlo Park) and Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego), would require the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to adopt cost-effective and technologically feasible regulations to prohibit engine exhaust and evaporative emissions from new small off-road engines. Specifically, the sale of new gas-powered small off-road engines, commonly found in gardening and outdoors equipment such as lawnmowers, leaf blowers, chainsaws, and other similar equipment would be transitioned over to only zero-emission motor equipment.
While gas-powered equipment would not be made illegal, the sale of new gas powered SORE would be phased out until 2024, or by a date that CARB finds acceptable. CARB would also have to make funding available for commercial rebates to support the transition to zero-emission SORE. New portable gas-powered generators sold in the state would also have to be zero-emission by 2028, although that date may change based on future CARB decisions over needed blackout generators.
“According to ARB, the largest SORE contributors to smog-forming emissions in its jurisdiction are generators, followed by leaf blowers, lawn mowers, riding mowers, trimmers, chainsaws, and pressure washers,” bill analysis says.
The bill generated controversy ever since being introduced earlier this year, with bill language barely changing since March. While passed on a Democrat-Republican split in the Senate, many Democrats joined Republicans opposing the bill in the Assembly, with many voicing concerns of costs to landscaping companies and aforementioned concerns of generator usage during emergencies. However, the opposition fell short 47-22 with 11 opposing last month in the Assembly, leading the way for Newsom to sign on Saturday.
Democratic lawmakers, environmentalists, and others praised the Governor for signing AB 1346 into law during the weekend, pointing out the environmental benefits as well as health benefits for the users of the new equipment.
“I was so proud to work with Assemblyman Marc Berman on this bill, as a joint author,” tweeted Assemblywoman Gonzalez on Saturday. “We even got money in the budget to help small landscapers replace their dirty leaf blowers! Huge thank you to Marc for recognizing the impact this has on Latino workers.”
I was so proud to work with @AsmMarcBerman on this bill, as a joint author. We even got money in the budget to help small landscapers replace their dirty leaf blowers! Huge thank you to Marc for recognizing the impact this has on Latino workers. https://t.co/tx123NIJXG
— Lorena Gonzalez (@LorenaSGonzalez) October 10, 2021
Berman also noted the passage in a statement saying that “It’s amazing how people react when they learn how much this equipment pollutes, and how much smog-forming and climate-changing emissions that small off-road engine equipment creates. 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.”
However, critics pointed out that many would likely import gas-powered lawnmowers and other machines covered under the bill past the deadline date. Other critics are also worried that the new motors will generate less power, which would be critical for areas that still rely on gas-powered generators for emergency power.
“It should really come down to preference,” said Miguel Rojas, a landscaping company owner in Los Angeles, to the Globe on Monday. “My crews prefer different things, sometimes based on the neighborhood. Some like gas, some like electric, some don’t care. But now they’re trying to get us not to use certain ones? That’s idiotic.”
“We use the ones that are best for us, and the client. And one of them is saying that this is for Latinos. This is just going to hurt us, as electric ones don’t last as long due to the battery life. And we wear masks and other protective equipment, so we’re fine using the gas ones. Maybe the writers of this should mow a lawn a few times before judging what’s best for us.”
“But you know what? We’re just going to go to Mexico, Nevada, Arizona, anywhere and get the ones we want. Or if they ban using new ones, we’ll just replace the motors of the old ones because they work better. I don’t know how much more out of touch these people can get.”
AB 1346, which follows in the footsteps of other gas-powered motor limiting bills such as Governor Gavin Newsom’s executive order last year ending the sale of new gas-powered vehicles in California by 2035, is expected to go into effect by 2024.