Lawn Mower Clean Air Rules Effective

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(Sacramento, CA)
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Most everyone knows about California’s anti-smog standards for cars. But, are you aware there’s also program to cut pollution from lawnmowers? For more than a decade California has led efforts to reduce ozone-depleting greenhouse gases created by mowers. Now we’re entering the final phase of an ambitious program requiring any new lawnmower sold in California to meet strict clean air standards. Let’s start where you’re most likely to find a new lawnmower…at a home and garden center… “This is a Lawn Boy lawnmower…with a Honda Engine…with a gold series Honda motor on it. That’s an overhead valve motor on it..." Bob Carpenter has been selling lawnmowers at this ACE hardware in Sacramento for ten years. People call him “The Lawnmower Man”. He’s standing next to a shiny green lawnboy mower. It’s top of the line because it has all of the latest clean air equipment… “This is just like your car motor. Modern cars they all have overhead cams…it’s new technology…it’s a way to produce more horsepower with less gas…and it’s less polluting…” (sound of Carpenter starting a lawn mower) The old two stroke lawn mower engines coughed out big clouds of blue smelly smoke. But this lawnmower…offers all of the cutting edge clean air technologies and there’s only a whiff of smoke coming from its exhaust pipe. John Swanton is an air pollution specialist with the California Air Resources board. He says using an older model lawnmower…mowers sold before 2004…can create a lot of carbon monoxide and other nasty fumes…even if they run for only an hour... “That’s the equivalent to driving about 700 miles in a newer passenger car. So, When we can reduce even one lawnmower…that’s a significant amount of emission reductions…” Swanton has been monitoring air pollution created by lawnmower engines in California for a long time. In the mid 1990’s...when the U-S EPA gave the state final permission to require new mowers to have pollution fighting filters...Swanton got excited. The aim…he says…is to cut pollution from lawnmowers by 90-percent... “Our goal for the future is that as these emission control technologies become more effective…we do apply that to the market as a whole. So, we look at what those state of technologies are…its cost for manufacturers to produce clean engines…and our standards always do drive technologies…and it does drive reductions on a cost effective basis for our state…” Now many other states are considering following California's lead on cleaner burning lawnmowers. This is something the lawnmower industry wasn't too happy about when California first announced its plan in 1994. James McNew is with O-P-E-I...the "Outdoor Power Equipment Institute" in Virgina. His company lobbies on behalf of lawnmower and leaf blower manufacturers across the country...and he's not pleased when people compare mower emissions to pollution created by cars... ”You’re dealing with a totally different product. They run approximately 25 to 30 hours a year. So when you look at the overall emissions from lawnmowers to cars…they don’t really make sense…” But, a lot of people buy lawn mowers in California…so the manufacturers eventually agreed to create lower polluting engines. The industry saw the greener grass on the other might say. "I believe we’ve worked very constructively with California to achieve their air quality goals…” California clean air officials say the program has been a big success. The state has until 2012 to reduce lawnmower smog by 90-percent…from 1994 figures. That’s hundreds of tons of carbon and other particulates that contribute to air pollution. By the way…we should mention that any Lawnmower sold before 2006 doesn’t have to meet California’s new clean air rules. “There’s an egalitarian point of view. Most people want to do something to clean up the air…and now they’re turning to lawnmowers…" That’s Chris Capra. He’s with the local utility Sacramento known as SMUD. SMUD offers rebates to consumers who trade their polluting mowers for electric machines. When SMUD first announced the program a few years back...the interest was overwhelming...thousands of people turned out for a few hundred rebates… “They camped out like they were waiting in line for Led Zeppelin tickets or something…” SMUD now offers mower rebate coupons on the internet. But…the use of electric mowers brings up another issue. Doesn't using electricity to mow one's lawn...put more pressure on the utility to keep up with increased demand? Capra says it's really minimal... “What you’re doing is you’re charging a battery…so if your lawn is small…you could charge that battery and maybe get 2, 3, 4 cuts out of that one battery charge…which on the first charge is about 12 hours…but after that is about an hour or two to charge that battery…” And, clean air advocates say there's another way to mow a lawn that doesn’t harm the environment at all. Back at the Ace hardware store in Sacramento…the lawnmower man…Bob Carpenter…says the old manual push mowers are becoming popular again… “I used to sell maybe one a month…I’m selling like five or six a week now…” So, it is possible…carpenter says to have beautiful green lawns…under clear blue skies.