Washington bill would enact California’s gas leaf blower, lawn mower ban

(The Center Square) – A bill introduced in the Washington State Legislature would ban the sale of new gas-powered small engines and equipment such as leaf blowers, which supporters say would lead to cleaner, quieter alternatives.

Critics of House Bill 2051 argue that it could undermine small businesses that rely on them and inappropriately ties state policy on the matter to that of California’s.

Sponsored by Rep. Amy Walen, D-Kirkland, HB 2051 would direct the Department of Ecology to adopt rules consistent with California’s existing standards for small off-road engines and equipment such as lawn mowers and leaf blowers. California’s program prohibits the sale any new equipment under 25 horsepower or 19 kilowatts if it does not achieve “zero emissions.”

The bill exempts chainsaws and generators and allows Ecology to delay the effective date for certain types of engines and equipment. A temporary grant program would be available for local governments to purchase “zero emission’ outdoor engines and equipment.

Testifying at a Thursday public hearing in the House Environment and Energy Committee, Walen said her bill is primarily directed at leaf blowers, which she said emit harmful noise and gasoline fumes.

She said the bill is written so that it’s “responsible about phasing out the equipment rather than an outright ban. It’s a phase out. You can use old, but you can’t buy new.”

“As government takes action, the market adapts,” she added.

However, some testifying in opposition, such as Mike Ennis with the Washington Farm Bureau, warned that permanently linking the program to California means that California would have the ability to make unilateral changes to Washington state law.

Testifying on behalf of the Washington Forest Protection Association, Tom Davis told the committee that the bill would have the unintended consequence of banning engines and equipment used by firefighters on both private and public forestland.

“Loss of equipment like this will be extremely detrimental to fighting wildfires in remote locations,” he said.

Yakima County Commissioner Amanda McKinney told the committee that unlike gas powered engines, battery-based ones take time to recharge and can’t be used.

“The amount of time it takes to charge is time out of the pocket of our minority owned businesses,” she said. “I understand the intent. Rural communities be allowed to operate the way they know best.”

No further action is scheduled for HB 2051.