lawnmower emissions, lawnmower emission
Lee Reich/AP

Lawnmowers: One Small Step for Clean Air

September 08, 2008 12:19 PM
by Sarah Amandolare
The EPA sets tougher emissions requirements for lawnmowers, a contrast to previous legislation regarding vehicle emissions.

EPA Lawnmower Crackdown

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued rules that will require gasoline-powered lawnmowers to be “dramatically cleaner.” Starting in 2011, new motorized lawn and garden equipment will be required to emit 35 percent less pollution; in 2010, emission reduction rules go into effect for “speedboats and other recreational watercraft,” reports the Associated Press.

The EPA estimates that putting forth the emissions reductions will cost $236 million per year, likely making lawnmowers and various other small machines more expensive for consumers. The added cost is due to catalytic converters, which will be built into lawnmowers to limit emissions.

Catalytic converters have been used in cars in the United States since the 1970s, employing “a small amount of platinum to convert harmful engine emissions, including nitrogen oxides and carbon monoxide, into less harmful ones, like nitrogen and carbon dioxide,” according to Wired.

The EPA’s issuance of rules regarding lawnmower emissions is in contrast to its recent stance on auto emissions. In January 2008, the EPA denied California and other states “the right to adopt strict curbs on greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks,” according to the Los Angeles Times. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., blamed “White House interference” with the Clean Air Act for the EPA’s ruling.

The EPA defended its decision with claims that “global warming … is a worldwide problem rather than a California issue,” despite the state’s high pollution levels, reported the Los Angeles Times.

Background: Lawnmowers Long an EPA Target

In 2005, The Washington Post reported that a Senate spending panel delayed legislation intended to reduce air pollution caused by “lawnmowers and other small engine machines.” 

The delay was to allow the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to conduct a six-month study into safety issues related to catalytic converters, which prevent air pollution when installed in lawnmowers.

In May 1994, the St. Petersburg Times reported on the EPA’s “plans to regulate emissions from gasoline-powered mowers, chain saws and even golf carts,” in hopes of reducing “smog-forming hydrocarbon emissions by 32 percent by the year 2003,” as well as lowering carbon monoxide levels.

The plan was to include two phases that would set emissions standards for lawnmower exhaust systems, and permit the EPA’s evaluation of data regarding emissions.

Related Topic: The Bush administration’s environmental legacy

Reference: Lawnmowers and catalytic converters


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