Editor’s Note: This story is part of a series written this fall by students in the journalism program at California State University, Sacramento. They are taught by Phillip Reese, a reporter on the Sacramento Bee staff and associate professor at CSUS. For more information on the CSUS Journalism Program, visit facebook.com/SacStateJournalism.
The sounds of fall: rain falling, breeze flowing, leaves creaking and leaf blowers roaring in the morning. But the rude awakening of the leaf blowers may soon be a thing of the past.
California will ban the sale of leaf blowers, lawn mowers, generators and other small gasoline all-terrain engines as early as 2024, due to a bill recently signed by Governor Gavin Newsom.
Assembly Bill 1346 takes a phased approach to phase out gasoline-powered machines by only banning the buying and selling of new gasoline-powered equipment. Californians can still use gasoline machines they used to own.
The bill, which was drafted by Assembly Member Marc Berman D-Menlo Park, also requires all new small all-terrain engines sold to produce zero emissions by 2024 or whenever the California Air Resources Board will determine that the requirement is achievable.
“Zero emission technology is here, and we need to move away from fossil fuels quickly for the benefit of our communities, our workers and our planet,” Berman said via email, noting that the idea for the bill came from ‘a voter. “Everyone will benefit from cleaner air and the associated reductions in asthma, lung disease and cancer. “
According to the California Air Resources Board (CARB), operating a leaf blower for an hour emits as much smog-forming pollution as driving a car from Los Angeles to Denver. In addition to the environmental benefits, CARB predicts that the resulting emission reductions will save $ 8.8 billion in healthcare costs through 2043 and prevent 892 premature deaths.
“I want to stress that it’s not just about the environment, it’s about human health,” Berman said.
He added that workers who frequently use gas equipment are at higher risk of cancer.
Supporters of the law include several asthma management and prevention groups and environmental organizations, including 350 Sacramento, which is focusing its efforts on climate change.
As the power grid and cars become more efficient and produce less pollution, the transition to electric motors becomes more appropriate, according to Will Brieger, CARB retiree and chair of the 350 Sacramento Legislative Committee.
But the biggest buzz surrounding the new law is the potential reduction of another type of pollution: noise.
“For those of us who started working at home because of the pandemic, we kind of had a rude awakening on weekday mornings: it’s deafening in the suburban neighborhoods because there has so many services that mows and blows, ”Brieger said.
The cost of zero emissions
Cooper Lawn Care in Sacramento will be one of many small businesses affected by the new legislation. Owner and operator Chevy Cooper said his business serves 25 to 50 customers each month, each with different sized properties.
While he believes the zero-emission targets are positive, he is concerned that landscaping companies may not be able to maintain high service levels due to the reduced capacity of the machines.
“It will be difficult for landscapers to keep up with the demand,” Cooper said. “After a while you either need to go back and recharge your gear or have a lot of batteries.”
To meet the costs for landscapers to switch to zero-emission equipment, lawmakers have allocated $ 30 million in the state budget for 2021-2022. Berman said it was the first time the state has allocated incentive funds to industry.
Elk Grove Mayor Bobbie Singh-Allen supports the legislation and the goal of meeting the state’s environmental goals, but is concerned about the ability of small landscaping companies to meet the new criteria .
“I am worried about small business owners and the hardships they will endure purchasing new equipment,” Singh-Allen said in an email. “We’re still in the middle of a pandemic with a new variant; economic uncertainty can create additional difficulties.
As a small business with relatively few lawn mowers and leaf blowers, Cooper isn’t too worried about the cost of newer machines. His company plans to sell its gasoline-powered machines to landscapers in other states and use the profits along with the incentive money to go zero-emissions.
Berman said CARB will expand the Clean Off-Road Equipment program to distribute incentives to local air districts. He said he would advocate for more funding in the future if the $ 30 million was not enough.
Brieger cited practical reasons for switching to zero-emission equipment, saying electricity is cheaper than gas and servicing electric landscaping equipment is easier because of the fewer moving parts. . He pointed out that zero-emission equipment is now available, and residential consumers are already mainly purchasing electric landscaping equipment.
“No one should wait,” he said. “If they have the capacity and the need to replace their businesses, they should go ahead and do it sooner.”
The transition, to Brieger, will hopefully come as soon as possible in early 2024.
“I hope this will prove practical because in terms of climate change we have to do everything, absolutely everything and more,” he said.