Plan announced to swap noisy gas lawn mowers

FILE PHOTO. Lawn watering two years ago in March 2015. KATHARINE LOTZE/Signal. 03302015

State officials monitoring air pollution have a plan in place to swap noisy gas-emitting lawn mowers used by professional landscapers with quieter, no-emission electric mowers.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District announced Monday that $2.5 million in incentive funds are available to help commercial gardeners and landscapers, local governments, school districts, colleges and nonprofit organizations buy new zero-emission, battery-electric commercial-grade lawn and garden equipment and scrap and replace their old, polluting gasoline- or diesel-powered equipment.

Is it a deal likely to be pursued by the city of Santa Clarita?

The short answer from city spokeswoman Carrie Lujan Wednesday was no.

“I spoke with our parks manager,” she said. “It (the swapping deal) is for a much smaller lawn mower than the ones we use in city parks.

“These do not have the battery power to accommodate our operations,” Lujan said.

County parks and rec officials, meanwhile, are eyeing the deal.

“Part of our department’s values includes balancing economic and environmental needs through proactive stewardship and conservation practices,”  county spokeswoman Dora Nuñez said Wednesday.

“This program looks like it may dovetail nicely with our values,” she said. “We will be checking our lawn and garden equipment inventory to see which of our equipment qualifies as well as bringing the program to the attention of our contracted landscape vendors to encourage their participation.”

Those who take SCAQMD officials up on their offer stand to get up to 60 percent off the purchase price for new equipment.  

This program is not available to individual residents who are not gardeners or landscapers.

“With these incentive funds, we are helping to put cleaner, quieter, more efficient and emissions-free lawn equipment into the hands of gardeners and landscapers throughout our region,” said SCAQMD Executive Officer Wayne Nastri.

“Gas- and diesel-powered chain saws, lawn mowers, leaf blowers and hedge trimmers produce hazardous emissions that expose operators and residents to increased cancer risks, air toxins, carbon monoxide and microscopic particles that can become lodged deep in the lungs.”

Participants will receive significant discounts applied at point of purchase on approved equipment.

For example, a leaf blower with a backpack battery and a charger that retails for $1,400 can be purchased for only $560 plus tax, a 60 percent discount.

Participants will be able to purchase qualifying equipment by ECHO, Husqvarna, Makita, Mean Green, Oregon and STIHL from authorized dealers in Riverside, Orange, Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties at a reduced price set by SCAQMD in exchange for an equivalent, operable piece of diesel- or gasoline-powered equipment.

Manufacturers, according to the district, are prepared to accept and scrap the old equipment.  

According to studies by the California Air Resources Board:

  • 42 percent of engines fail CARB’s evaporative emission test; and
  • Operators are exposed to carcinogens such as benzene and butadiene, therefore increasing their cancer risks.
  • By 2020, smog-forming volatile organic compound emissions from lawn equipment engines are expected to exceed those from cars.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, VOCs are organic chemicals that have a high vapor pressure at ordinary, room-temperature conditions. Many believe they are carcinogenic.  

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