California Is Banning Gas-Powered Leaf Blowers and Lawnmowers

California Is Banning Gas-Powered Leaf Blowers and Lawnmowers
Photo: Francois Nel, Getty Images

On Saturday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill into law that could ban the sale of new gas-powered leaf-blowers as early as 2024. It also applies to lawnmowers, power washers, and other small off-road engines. The legislation could make a real difference, as over 16.7 million of these devices are in use throughout the state.

Leaf blowers suck, and I don’t just mean that they suck air through their vents. They also suck for the climate and air pollution. Taking leaf blowers off lawns and footpaths isn’t just about peace and quiet, then. (To be fair, noise pollution is also a huge issue.)

The new regulation, which was authored by Assemblyman Marc Berman from California’s 24th district, directs the California Air Resources Board to create rebates for residents to purchase electric-powered replacements for their yardwork equipment. Once the changes are implemented, retailers will only be allowed to sell emissions-free leaf blowers and lawnmowers that run on batteries. All good things.

The timing, however, is a little wishy-washy. The law will go into effect by 2024 “or as soon as the state board determines is feasible, whichever is later.” Seems like that could invite endless delays, which is particularly frustrating because, during negotiations, bill supporters said that more than half of California’s households have already transitioned to clean alternatives.

The bill comes as part of the state’s efforts to ramp down greenhouse gas emissions. Lawn equipment in the U.S. alone emitted 9.3 million kilograms of carbon dioxide in 2011. A year ago, Newsom signed a ban on the sale of gas-powered cars that will start in 2035.

In addition to being a good move for climate reasons, the new bill is set to have positive public health impacts. Gas-powered leaf blowers and lawnmowers also produce toxins like nitrogen oxide, reactive organic gases, and particulate matter, exposure to all of which can increase the risk of respiratory and cardiovascular disease and other illnesses. Using a leaf blower for just an hour produces as much smog-creating pollution as a car trip from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, according to CARB.

Not everyone is in support of the new measure. While the bill sets aside A$40 million to fund professional landscapers’ and gardeners’ transition away from gas-powered appliances, an industry representative told the Los Angeles Times that pool isn’t enough to help the 50,000 small businesses that will be impacted by the law. Andrew Bray, vice president of government relations for the National Association of Landscape Professionals, told the paper that a gas-powered commercial riding lawn mower costs A$9,521 to A$14,962, while the clean versions can cost more than twice as much.

Maybe that means the state could stand to set aside a little more money for the effort. But it certainly doesn’t mean these powerhouses of pollution should be allowed to keep spewing out carbon and toxic airborne compounds just to keep grass and leaves in check. Come to think of it, why not just address part of the root of the problem in the first place and ban lawns.