Clean Air Advocate, CoPIRG Foundation
Clean Air Advocate, CoPIRG Foundation
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Friday, July 7, 2023
DENVER – As Colorado approaches the heart of ozone air pollution season, the Regional Air Quality Council (RAQC) board voted today to approve policies that will clean up our air and protect public health by accelerating the shift away from certain gas-powered lawn and garden machinery in the Denver Metro/North Front Range region in favor of cleaner electric equipment. The region has been out of compliance with air quality standards for years, and was downgraded in 2022 from “serious” to “severe” violator status.
The measures under consideration include a 2025 prohibition on the sale of new gas-powered push lawn mowers and handheld landscaping tools such as leaf blowers and trimmers, and seasonal use restrictions on this same type of equipment for public entities and commercial operators that kick in in 2025 and 2026 respectively.
“Pound for pound, gas-powered lawn and garden tools produce a shocking amount of pollution that contributes to asthma and other serious health issues, so phasing them out is a critical way that we as a community can tackle our dirty air problem,” said CoPIRG Foundation Clean Air Advocate Kirsten Schatz. “We suffer from some of the worst air pollution in the country, so it makes no sense to allow extremely dirty and loud lawn equipment when there are lots of electric options that don’t blast fumes in your face and are quieter and easier to maintain. There’s also lots of funding available to help people make the switch.”
Smaller gas-powered lawn and garden tools lack basic emissions controls and are extremely polluting. Operating a commercial leaf blower for just one hour can result in as much ozone-forming emissions as driving a car 1,100 miles – approximately the distance between Denver and Calgary, Canada.
A 2022 CoPIRG Foundation report showed that fully shifting the lawn and garden sector in the region away from gas-powered equipment could achieve nearly 20% of the cuts needed to bring ozone concentrations down below federal health-based air quality limits. Breathing ozone can cause harmful health effects including lung damage, worsening of existing respiratory conditions such as asthma and cardiovascular disease.
“Since 2006, I have led a nationwide franchise of electric lawn care businesses, headquartered in Fort Collins. Air pollution is terrible in our region, which is one reason I decided to use only electric equipment when launching my business – and why I support policies to restrict the use of small gas-powered equipment,” said Clean Air Lawn Care Founding Owner Kelly Giard. “These days, battery-powered tools have plenty of power to get the job done, and our costs are less over a 5 year period than if we were using gas. If our company can use this model and be successful, I know others can do the same.”
Electric lawn and garden equipment tools are cleaner, quieter and readily available at a range of price points comparable to gas-powered equipment. A number of companies along the Front Range already use electric-powered equipment. In interviews with CoPIRG Foundation staff they report:
- “Electric equipment has been getting the job done for our company since 2018. Each year the equipment gets better and better as more companies move towards electric products creating competition and innovation.”
- “Electric equipment tends to require less maintenance, vibrates less while in use (better for joints of operator when using 8+ hours per day), quieter which is better for the customer and neighbors of customers (noise pollution), and using electric equipment over gas equipment reduces the amount of local pollution. This last reason is important to us here in Denver specifically since we often struggle with air quality issues during the summer and small 2 stroke engines are a massive contributor to this problem.”
- “Another benefit of electric equipment is that it’s quiet. Our clients will frequently be in their backyard and not even realize we’re there, mowing their front lawn.”
A suite of financial incentives exist to help people make the switch to electric:
- A new state law will go into effect in January 2024 to provide a 30% discount on electric mowers, leaf blowers, trimmers and snowblowers at participating retailers.
- The RAQC itself just launched a program offering matching grants of up to $3,000 for small businesses to make the switch.
- When the RAQC’s Public Entity Grant reopens for a second round, public agencies such as municipalities, counties, public schools and universities can apply for grants of up to $100,000 to make the switch.
- For individuals, the RAQC offers the Mow Down Pollution voucher program worth up $75 to $150 towards the purchase of electric equipment for those who recycle old gas mowers or leaf blowers, as well as grants for public entities to purchase electric lawn care tools.
- In Boulder County, Partners for a Clean Environment and the City of Boulder have teamed up to offer grants of up to $10,000 to commercial operators making the switch.
- Federal tax credits of up to $7,500 are available thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act for some large electric mowers.
“We want to live in a world where taking care of your lawn or garden doesn’t mean spewing tons of pollution into your face and into our community,” said Schatz. “The health and financial costs of gas-powered equipment just aren’t worth it.”
Once approved, the measures will be considered by the Air Quality Control Commission.
For general information on air quality challenges in Colorado and the harmful health effects of ozone, visit www.CleanAirColorado.org.