Almost three decades after towns on the peninsula began banning gasoline-powered leaf blowers, the effort has gained a foothold at the state level, with Gov. Gavin Newsom signing a bill on October 9 that will phase out their sales.
Among the dozens of bills Newsom signed in his final legislative session action are Assembly Bill 1346, which was drafted by Assembly Member Marc Berman, D-Menlo Park, and which directs the California Air Resources Board to pass regulations by July 2022 that would ban new “small all-terrain engines” – a category that includes gasoline leaf blowers, generators, pressure washers and chainsaws – by 2024.
Advocating for the bill, Berman cited their environmental impact. In a June speech to the Assembly, he noted that daily air pollution emissions from small engines are expected to exceed those from passenger cars this year.
“These emissions worsen air quality and have a negative impact on human health, causing asthma and lung disease and other terrible effects on the health of landscaping professionals who breathe gas in the air. ‘exhaust day after day,’ said Berman.
For towns like Palo Alto, Los Altos and Menlo Park, all located in the Berman District, the ban on gasoline leaf blowers is far from new. Los Altos banned them in 1991, becoming the first jurisdiction in the region to do so. Menlo Park and Palo Alto have followed suit in 1998 and 2005, respectively, although the Menlo Park law was subsequently overturned by referendum and the Palo Alto law, which applies exclusively to residential areas, has not been diligently enforced.
The new state law casts a wider net than these local ordinances. It applies to all devices with small all-terrain engines under 25 horsepower and unlike local ordinances, which have been driven primarily by noise complaints, state law focuses on emissions of greenhouse gases and health impacts. Passage of the bill makes California the first state to phase out gasoline leaf blowers.
For some, especially in the commercial sector, the change could pose significant challenges, according to an analysis of AB 1346 by State Assembly staff. The analysis notes that for residential uses, rechargeable electric lawn mowers, leaf blowers and edgers have “been available for years and have a significant market share.” For commercial users, however, “there is very little market for zero emission equipment, as today’s technology is relatively expensive and requires multiple batteries and / or frequent recharging and replacement.”
Supporters of the bill hope to address the slow adoption of zero-emission equipment by the commercial sector by passing the new restrictions and earmarking $ 30 million in the budget to help small businesses make the switch. Minutes before the Senate voted 21-9 to approve the bill on September 8, Sen. Ben Allen, D-Santa Monica, argued that the law is needed to help the state’s transition to equipment cleaner.
“Unless we put pressure on the industry, they won’t take the necessary steps to bring these best low-emission or zero-emission generators to market that are widely available to people,” Allen said.
Not everyone agrees. Opponents of the bill have argued that the legislation will place unreasonable restrictions on landscapers while doing very little to tackle climate change. Senator Brian Dahle, R-Bieber, suggested during a September 8 hearing on the bill that a switch to electrical equipment would make generators less reliable.
“When the power goes out, how are you going to charge your battery so you can supposedly keep your fridge on? Dahle asked in a Sept. 8 hearing on AB 1346. “We are converting everything to power because, for some reason, this legislature hates fuel, which is very durable, easy to access and, when current is cut, you can still use the. “
Assembly member Devon Mathis, R-Visalia, also argued that the bill would do more harm than good. He called the bill in a Sept. 9 hearing one that would create “tough regulations for companies that use this equipment without providing sufficient funding to support the rebate programs needed to support this transition.”
“Many of these businesses are small and minority-owned and are predominant professions for Latin American communities involving landscape, tree maintenance and construction,” Mathis said, before the assembly approved the bill by 49 votes to 21.
Supporters of AB 1346 counter that the bill does not regulate the use of existing gas-powered equipment, only the purchase of new equipment. They also note that the bill includes exceptions for farmers and emergency responders. Assembly Member Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, who worked with Berman to move the bill forward and secure funding, argued in a statement Monday that the bill would help tackle environmental impacts and sanitary facilities for small gas engines.
“It’s time to phase out these super polluters and help small landscaping companies switch to cleaner alternatives,” Gonzalez said in a statement Monday.
Berman’s bill also garnered support from organizations such as the Sierra Club California, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and the Coalition of Clean Air. Bill Magavern, policy director for the Coalition for Clean Air, said in a statement that AB 1346 “will protect the health of Californians by cleaning up extremely high pollution from small all-terrain engines like leaf blowers and lawn mowers. grass”. Daniel Barad, policy advocate at the Sierra Club California, said the bill will “reduce toxic pollution in California neighborhoods by combating emissions from leaf blowers, lawn mowers and other small all-terrain engines. “.
“This bill is another important step towards breathable air and a liveable climate in California,” Barad said in a statement.