Delay Zero Emission Equipment Transition, CLCA Tells California Air Resources Board

California’s landscape industry supports the transition to zero-emission equipment, but a 2024 deadline is too soon, given numerous unresolved technological and financial hurdles.

That’s the message the California Landscape Contractors Association and many others made in response to the California Air Resources Board’s proposal to ban the sale of gas-powered landscape equipment starting in 2024. The board will consider the proposal during an online meeting December 9.

Many of the nearly 1,000 public comments mirrored the association’s position that as responsible stewards of the environment, the landscape industry supports the transition to zero-emission equipment.

However, as the association notes in its comments to the board, commercial-grade battery-powered equipment currently on the market has performance issues, cost issues and infrastructure issues. Because of these reasons, the transition is not technically feasible for commercial/professional grade use, and the two-year timeline is simply too fast a transition for commercial users.

CLCA’s solution? Extend the time period to transition to zero emission commercial/professional grade equipment to 2028, but maintain the 2024 end-of-sale date for zero emission for residential users.

CLCA also calls for a re-examination of a proposed rebate and tax-incentive program. The association notes that replacing a $350 gas-powered leaf blower with comparable zero emission equipment (and the batteries necessary to handle a full workday) costs upward of $2,000. A proposed rebate program that would offer $15 per piece of equipment “does not come close to supporting the equipment transition for the landscape industry and our majority small business demographic.”

This is highly concerning because the majority of landscape maintenance professionals who are sole-proprietor (single employee) businesses have an average revenue of just $32,000 per year.

CLCA notes that adopting an amendment allowing commercial-grade landscape small off-road engines (SORE) to continue to be purchased until 2028 will lessen the jarring impacts on the industry and still allows for the air quality targets of 2031 and 2035 to be achieved. “In all, this would be a win for all parties involved. We would be happy to work with the Governor, CARB, the Legislature and air districts throughout California to promote and assist in this transition.”

The Truck and Engine Manufacturers Association (EMA) took a more confrontational approach in its comments, calling the proposed small off-road engine (SORE) proposal “cost-prohibitive, infeasible, unenforceable and invalid.”

Moreover, EMA notes, CARB staff “are proposing to mandate that dramatically accelerated transition to zero-emission equipment without having undertaken the necessary analysis of the technical feasibility and cost effectiveness of doing so. As a result, the pending proposal is neither reasonable nor implementable.

“The Proposed SORE Amendments as applied to non-handheld products are infeasible and, as confirmed by independent expert analyses, fall well short of any reasonable cost-effective thresholds. CARB has grossly underestimated the costs associated with nearly all aspects of the far-reaching Proposed Amendments, and has materially overestimated their potential benefits.”