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Utah Air Quality Board considers ban on some lawn care equipment on bad air days

Courtesy of Fox 13 News, Salt Lake City

October 6, 2023

SALT LAKE CITY — In an effort to help the Wasatch Front meet ozone air quality standards, the Utah Air Quality Board is being asked to consider a ban on gasoline-powered leaf blowers, string trimmers, tillers and hedge trimmers on bad air days.

The proposed rule, which will go before the board next month, takes aim at a small but significant source of pollution.

"When you see a single leaf blower out, you’d think there’s no way this is producing that much bad air quality emissions," said Ryan Bares, an environmental scientist with the Utah Division of Air Quality. "The reality is these engines do produce a lot of pollution. So running a leaf blower, a gas-powered leaf blower for one hour, is the equivalent of driving a modern commuter car from Ogden to Disneyland." The proposed rule is an effort to help the state comply with federal air quality standards in the summertime when it comes to ozone. On days when air quality is at its worst — a "red air" day — use of such equipment would be prohibited with the potential for a fine. The rule would not apply to lawn mowers.

To help prod lawn care companies to switch to cleaner fuel landscaping equipment, the Utah Department of Environmental Quality is offering incentives up to $3,000 for businesses. Those incentives are available now, regardless of whether the rule ever goes into effect.

Christoph Heinrich, who owns Blue Planet Lawn, started his landscaping company with Utah's air pollution in mind.

"It’s a zero emission lawn care company. My goal was just to reduce air pollution here in the Salt Lake Valley," he said in an interview with FOX 13 News. "We all know 2-stroke engine, gasoline-powered lawn care is very polluting."

Heinrich said he maintains his equipment with solar panels mounted on the back of a trailer, which charge up the batteries that power lawn mowers, trimmers, leaf blowers and even a chainsaw. He said the cost of the equipment isn't much more expensive than gas-powered equipment and it isn't more cumbersome. He said battery technology that powers the equipment has also gotten much better in recent years.

"There’s a few things you have to sort of take into consideration. The main thing I would say is battery management," Heinrich said. "That’s also the biggest concern other companies have."

He said customers don't notice the difference and some actually prefer the quieter equipment. The noise generated by a string trimmer Heinrich had was noticeably quieter than a gas-powered one being used across the street.

"For the customers, there’s no sacrifice or no cost and no effort. They can switch and then they have no noise and no pollution in their yard," Heinrich said.

Henrich said since he started his company with the goal of zero emissions in mind, he didn't need much of the Utah Department of Environmental Quality's incentives (but he used it to swap out a piece of equipment).

"It's much nicer to work with this equipment," he said. "There’s several reasons: first of all, there’s no fumes, no smoke, no pollution around me and I don’t have to handle gasoline and try to put it in those little tanks. The equipment is much quieter. It’s lighter, it’s easy to handle."

The Utah Air Quality Board will take up the proposed administrative rule at its November meeting. If it gives initial approval, it will go out for a public comment period. The board would then vote on adopting it or revising it, likely in January. If the rule is adopted, there would be a phased-in implementation. State agencies and higher education institutions would have to agree to the ban in 2024; residential homes in 2025; and lawn care companies in 2026.

Thank you to Fox 13 News for the feature. Find the original article here.


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