California will soon ban the sale of new gas-powered leaf blowers and lawn mowers, a move aimed at curbing emissions from a category of small engines on pace to produce more pollution each year than passenger vehicles.
Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a new law on Saturday that orders state regulators to ban the sale of new gas-powered equipment using small off-road engines, a broad category that includes generators, lawn equipment and pressure washers.
The California Air Resources Board has already started working on a rule to do this, a lengthy process scheduled to conclude early next year. But the law Newsom signed on Saturday removes any doubt, ordering the agency to apply the new rule by Jan. 1, 2024, or as soon as regulators determine is “feasible,” whichever date is later.
“Gov. .Newsom signing (this law) really sets a strong course to not only his commitment to transitioning to zero emissions but also to cleaner air and healthier lungs,” said Will Barrett, director of clean air advocacy for the American Lung Association in California.
The law, authored by Democratic Assemblyman Marc Berman, is part of an aggressive strategy to reduce pollution in the nation’s most populous state. California is the only state with the authority to regulate air quality this way, part of an exception carved out in federal law in the 1970s. While other states can’t enact their own regulations, they can choose to follow California’s lead.
Last year, California regulators approved a first-of-its-kind rule to force automakers to sell more electric work trucks and delivery vans. Also last year, Newsom ordered regulators to ban the sale of all new gas-powered cars and trucks in California by 2035 — a date that has since been embraced by some of the world’s largest automakers.
California has more than 16.7 million of these small engines in the state, about 3 million more than the number of passenger cars on the road. California was the first government in the world to adopt emission standards for these small engines in 1990. But since then, emissions in cars have vastly improved compared with smaller engines.
Now, state officials say running a gas-powered leaf blower for one hour emits the same amount of pollution as driving a 2017 Toyota Camry from Los Angeles to Denver, a distance of about 1,100 miles (1,770 kilometers).
The law Newsom signed also orders regulators to offer rebates for people to change out their equipment, a move aimed at landscaping businesses that use these machines more often. The state budget, approved earlier this year, includes $30 million to pay for this effort.