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Local group moves forward in its drive for a ban on gas-powered leaf blowers

Leaf blower
Gas-powered leaf blowers are in the crosshairs of San Diegans for Sustainable, Equitable & Quiet Equipment in Landscaping, or SD-SEQUEL.
(stock.adobe.com)

A group of local residents reports it’s making progress toward its goal of shutting down gas-powered leaf blowers across San Diego County, encouraged by parallel statewide efforts.

San Diegans for Sustainable, Equitable & Quiet Equipment in Landscaping, or SD-SEQUEL, meets every two or three weeks on Zoom to work on a draft ordinance that would implement a trade-in or buy-back program to help transition from gas to electric leaf blowers.

The group formed in May and is led by La Jollan and Ban Leaf Blowers San Diego member Carolyn Marsden and Sierra Club San Diego representative Ron Askeland. It has submitted a letter to the San Diego County Air Pollution Control District urging APCD to seek funds from the California Air Resources Board for a trade-in or buy-back program.

The letter applauds Assembly Bill 1346, signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom in October, which will outlaw the sale of new gas-powered lawn mowers, leaf blowers and chain saws as early as 2024 and requires CARB to adopt cost-effective and technologically feasible regulations to prohibit emissions from the machines.

However, SD-SEQUEL’s letter states the group “believes it is inequitable for landscape contractors alone to bear the costs of conversion to electric equipment.”

Members of SD-SEQUEL meet.
Members of SD-SEQUEL discuss a draft ordinance that would ban the use of gas-powered leaf blowers and establish a trade-in or buy-back program.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

At SD-SEQUEL’s Dec. 8 meeting, Askeland said: “We really would like to see … a focus on the small landscapers to get trade-in funds [at] the local level. I’m worried [that] at the state level, it’d be hard for the smaller guys to get a chance.”

Askeland said the office of San Diego County Supervisor and APCD Chairwoman Nora Vargas acknowledged receipt of the letter. He later told the La Jolla Light that he spoke at the Dec. 9 APCD meeting during public comments, reiterating the request for a trade-in program.

He added that CARB voted unanimously Dec. 9 to adopt proposed amendments to regulations on small off-road engines.

According to the amendments, “lawn maintenance equipment and smaller chain saws sold in California will need to be zero emissions starting in 2024,” Askeland said. “This is a big win for the health of all Californians.”

SD-SEQUEL’s letter outlines the group’s main objections to the use of gas-powered leaf blowers.

“The California Air Resources Board reports that the smog-forming pollution from running a commercial gas-powered leaf blower for one hour is comparable to driving a 2017 Toyota Camry for 1,100 miles,” it states.

The letter, signed by Jan Chatten-Brown, an SD-SEQUEL member, environmental advocate and retired attorney, contends that the dust stirred by leaf blowers contains allergens and contaminants that increase “the risk of asthma, cardiovascular disease, lung cancer, premature birth and other severe health conditions.”

SD-SEQUEL also says that “noise from leaf blowers can cause hearing loss and is especially harmful to landscape workers, older persons, children and people with autism.”

The group’s draft ordinance to ban gas-powered leaf blowers and implement a trade-in or buy-back program is in its final editing stages. It includes the group’s proposal that trade-in or buy-back programs offer 75 percent of the cost of new equipment.

Askeland said the draft might be changed to ask for “75 percent or more.”

An added benefit to a trade-in or buy-back program, Askeland said, “is you get the current leaf blowers off the market. The problem with the state legislation is, if you stop selling them in 2024, they can still be running” for years, with users stockpiling equipment and buying replacement parts.

SD-SEQUEL hopes to begin formally submitting the draft ordinance to city and county officials in January.

The group also is in contact with 16 area school districts to encourage them to “replace their gas-powered lawn maintenance equipment with electric.”

Grants are available through APCD to school districts in disadvantaged communities.

SD-SEQUEL next meets at 3 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 5, on Zoom. For more information, visit sd-sequel.org.