DENVER — Colorado’s Regional Air Quality Council voted to approve recommendations on Friday to ban the sale of gas-powered lawn equipment starting in 2025. The recommendation now heads to the state’s Air Quality Control Commission to determine whether it should go into effect.
The recommendations come a year after the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) decided to downgrade the Northern Front Range’s ozone problem from serious to severe, a move that requites localities and the state to take more robust moves to mitigate pollution.
“Phasing out this dirtiest gas-powered lawn and garden equipment is one critical way that we as a community can come together and start to tackle our dirty air pollution problem,” said Kirsten Schatz, a clean air advocate with the Colorado Public Interest Research Group. “We need to use every tool available to clean up our dirty air as soon as possible. Our health and our quality of life depend on it.”
The council decided to recommend to the commission to ban the sale of gas-powered lawn equipment for residential use starting in 2025. That would include mower, leaf blowers and weedwhackers among other things.
“It doesn't require folks to turn in their mowers or, you know, go electric by mandate. It just says, 'when you're going to make a purchase in the future, it’s going to be electric for the small stuff',” said Mike Silverstein, the executive director of the Regional Air Quality Council.
A commercial entity use restriction on gas-powered equipment would kick in the following year. The proposal also calls for a ban on the use of gas-powered lawn equipment by cities and bigger groups, like parks divisions, during high ozone summer months.
“Lawn and garden equipment really does emit and contributes significantly to our degraded summertime air quality. The example that was raised today that we've used many times is (that) using a leaf blower for an hour is like driving 1,100 miles to Calgary, Canada. It's the same degree of emissions,” said Silverstein.
The proposal does call for some exemptions for firefighters, fire prevention, forest managers, grassland managers and others. The council also discussed adding exemptions for storm clean up and when dealing with supply chain issues.
Silverstein admits that this is a difficult proposition to ask individual, local governments and small businesses to make the switch. However, there are already financial incentives to help with the cost of changing over.
The Regional Air Quality Council offers up to $100,000 in grants for public entities and governments to switch. Small businesses can receive up to $3,000.
There’s also a voucher program for homeowners who want to trade in their old lawn equipment. Old gas lawnmowers can be traded in for $150 with public incentives programs and old gas-powered hand equipment can be traded in for $75.
State lawmakers also approved a bill this year to offer a 30% point-of-sale tax rebate to people who buy electric equipment.
Even with the financial help, though, there are concerns about cost, equity and how this will affect businesses. Others critical of banning this equipment say the market is already moving in this direction so a mandate is not necessary.
While the council overwhelmingly chose to approve the recommendations, the vote was not unanimous. Michael Ogletree, the director of the Air Pollution Control Division, was the lone no vote.
In a statement to Denver7, Ogletree said, “I just want to suggest for these lawn and garden recommendations to continue to be stakeholdered, allowing for additional information gathering around equipment durability for commercial operators as well as commercial mobile battery charging options, which would also allow for time for the tax credits to kick in and see those returns in incentivising reductions. And as such would additionally suggest exploring what are the correct dates for achieving the most effective reduction and further thinking about if 2025 for public and 2026 for commercial are the correct years.”
He went on to say that electrifying lawn equipment is one important step Colorado can take to achieve its air quality goals but how that happens needs to be carefully considered.
The Air Quality Control Commission is expected to decide whether to further explore the recommendations in August. Discussions would then happen in the fall.