Net Zero California Governor Just Banned Backup Generators and Fire Pumps – Watts Up With That?

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

California just banned the sale of gasoline powered backup generators, lawn mowers, small gas powered fire fighting pumps, and other small stationary engines, as part of their drive to reduce CO2 emissions.

Newsom signs law to eventually ban gas-powered lawn equipment in California

by: Associated Press
Posted: Oct 10, 2021 / 07:08 AM PDT / Updated: Oct 10, 2021 / 07:08 AM PDT

California will soon ban the sale of new gas-powered leaf blowers and lawn mowers, a move aimed at curbing emissions from a category of small engines on pace to produce more pollution each year than passenger vehicles.

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a new law on Saturday that orders state regulators to ban the sale of new gas-powered equipment using small off-road engines, a broad category that includes generators, lawn equipment and pressure washers.

The California Air Resources Board has already started working on a rule to do this, a lengthy process scheduled to conclude early next year. But the law Newsom signed on Saturday removes any doubt, ordering the agency to apply the new rule by Jan. 1, 2024, or as soon as regulators determine is “feasible,” whichever date is later.

“Gov. .Newsom signing (this law) really sets a strong course to not only his commitment to transitioning to zero emissions but also to cleaner air and healthier lungs,” said Will Barrett, director of clean air advocacy for the American Lung Association in California.

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A ban on gas powered lawn equipment would just be a serious inconvenience for most people, unless you have a very large lawn.

But the law bans a lot more than that.

AB-1346 Air pollution: small off-road engines.(2021-2022)

An act to add Section 43018.11 to the Health and Safety Code, relating to air pollution.


AB 1346, Berman. Air pollution: small off-road engines.Existing law imposes various limitations on the emissions of air contaminants for the control of air pollution from vehicular and nonvehicular sources. Existing law assigns the responsibility for controlling vehicular sources of air pollution to the State Air Resources Board. This bill would require the state board, by July 1, 2022, consistent with federal law, to adopt cost-effective and technologically feasible regulations to prohibit engine exhaust and evaporative emissions from new small off-road engines, as defined by the state board. The bill would require the state board to identify and, to the extent feasible, make available funding for commercial rebates or similar incentive funding as part of any updates to existing applicable funding program guidelines to local air pollution control districts and air quality management districts to implement to support the transition to zero-emission small off-road equipment operations.

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The text requires regulators to consider “… (E) Expected availability of zero-emission generators and emergency response equipment. …”, so there is no doubt they plan to cover backup generators and emergency fire fighting equipment if they can.

This is beyond serious. Imagine trying to fight the fire approaching your house, only to have a low battery light start flashing on your fire fighting water pump. Or someone who requires powered medical equipment, like oxygen generators or sleep apnea devices, struggling through an extended power outage without proper treatment for their health condition.

Gasoline powered equipment, barring a mechanical failure, works as long as you can keep it supplied with gasoline. But battery equipment needs power to recharge it. Where do you get more power, if the sky is covered with smoke or clouds, or the solar panels are covered in dust, snow or ash, and the power lines are down?

Obviously it is possible that regulators will embrace sanity on these issues, and provide sensible exceptions – but at this stage an outbreak of common sense is far from guaranteed.

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