Small-engine emissions

Q: Are stricter emission standards for grounds-care equipment justified?

John Dunlap, chairman, California Air Resources Board

Cleaner-running lawn and garden equipment is an important part of California's plan for cleaner air.

Manufacturers sometimes claim this equipment's contribution to air pollution is so small that it's a waste of time and money to control. This is an argument the California Air Resources Board (CARB) hears frequently. Motor vehicles account for about half of California's air emissions. The rest comes from many "small" sources, many of which have groups arguing they are too insignificant to regulate. But ignoring these smaller sources means ignoring a significant segment of California's emissions problem, precluding our ability to reach state and federal clean-air standards.

Most hand-held equipment runs on high-polluting 2-cycle engines. Lawn and garden equipment is used most in spring and summer, when air pollution is worst. This equipment is one of many significant pollution sources that can be reduced to meet federal mandates and protect our health.

California's "Tier II" standards for small engines, scheduled to begin January 1, 1999 (delaying to 2000 is under consideration), require a 70-percent reduction in smog-forming emissions. Significant technological progress has been made toward meeting these stricter standards. Honda and Ryobi have developed hand-held 4-cycle engines that already meet these standards. Komatsu Zenoah and Tanaka, working with BKM Inc., say they can manufacture modified 2-cycle engines meeting Tier II standards.

This progress shows that the next generation of lawn and garden equipment can meet clean-air challenges without placing an onerous burden on industry.

John Liskey, director of statistical and technical services, Outdoor Power Equipment Institute Inc.

The outdoor power-equipment industry has been actively involved in emissions issues since 1990. Our approach to regulations, both at the state and federal level, is proactive.

We know that we are a very small part of the emissions inventory. However, we have strived to be cooperative with regulators in order to achieve reasonable regulations. Our goal is simple: reduce emissions but still be able to sell products without major cost increases. This is not an easy task because regulators, for the most part, believe in such phrases as "how low can you go" or "we want to push technology." Sure, anything is possible, but always at a cost! Lower emissions mean changing the product. Changes in the engine alter its performance, and if the engine runs differently, then the equipment's efficiency may suffer. Will it cut grass? Will it start? Will it bag? How are costs passed on?

For the California regulations being developed, industry wants to harmonize them with federal regulations, with any emissions-reduction shortfall to be made up through control of spillage.

The industry believes we already have improved the environment by reducing emissions from our equipment by more than 70 percent since 1990. Currently, we are helping to finalize EPA Phase 2 regulations (effective in the 2001-2005 timeframe) and the CARB Tier II/III regulations (most likely effective in the same timeframe). Industry already has spent tens of millions of dollars. It's time to let the regulations take effect and for the environment to benefit from the actions we've already taken.

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© 2020 Penton Media Inc.

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