Colorado is considering a regulation that would ban noisy, polluting gas-powered lawn mowers and leaf blowers in the state starting in 2025. It’s similar to a California rule that goes into effect in 2024, but Colorado’s goes even further and would ban public and commercial use, along with sales.
Gas-powered lawnmowers and leaf blowers are surprisingly big polluters because most run on two-stroke engines. Two-stroke engines are smaller and cheaper than four-stroke engines, but are also hugely more polluting because they emit tiny particles of unburned fuel into the air.
A commonly cited statistic states that driving a two-stroke engine for one hour emits as many harmful air quality pollutants as driving a passenger car 1,100 miles. Cars emit more and more pollutants with global warming, but for air quality, two-stroke lawn equipment is much worse.
For this reason, many air quality agencies view these “small off-road engines” as low-hanging fruit for regulation. Colorado already offers coupons for exchanging dirty lawn equipment, providing monetary incentives for residents and businesses to upgrade to cleaner, easier-to-maintain electric lawn equipment. Although this costs the government, there are so many air quality benefits that it is a good use of public funds.
To say nothing of the noise pollution these engines cause, which is even more disturbing given the recent trend of working from home for many professionals.
So Colorado’s Regional Air Quality Board is considering implementing a ban on the use of these dirty engines, which could go into effect as early as 2025. The ban will likely go into effect statewide, affecting not only the sale of hand-held gas-powered devices, but also a ban against public and commercial use, although private users would likely be exempt from the ban.
While a two-year timeline for implementation seems rather sudden, the RAQC believes that by sending this signal now, commercial operators would have time to start replacing their devices early. Since these devices are used all day long, they often have a fairly high turnover rate. If companies start replacing their gas-powered equipment now, they won’t suddenly have to replace everything the day the ban goes into effect.
Plus, Colorado’s Northern Front Range—the eastern edge of the Rocky Mountains, the region that includes Denver and areas north of it, which is the area for which RAQC is responsible—is in “severe” nonattainment of EPA pollution rules, which meaning they must work quickly to come into compliance before an EPA deadline of 2026.
A ban on small lawn equipment is much easier to organize than major regulations on cars or on the state’s oil and gas industry (which is concentrated north of Denver), both of which face organized industry opposition. However, work is being done on both of them separately.
The RAQC is considering setting a minimum size for the commercial ban and exempting very small businesses. Nor would it probably apply to larger equipment, such as ride-on lawnmowers, as these typically have a longer lifespan and use four-stroke engines and are therefore, paradoxically, less polluting than their smaller hand-held cousins.
And while residents probably wouldn’t see a ban, the benefits of switching to electric lawn equipment are significant for private use. As we spend so much of our time in residential areas, the benefits of better air quality and lower noise pollution are even more important to achieve in these areas.
So commercial nurseries working in residential areas will be affected by the ban, but your neighbor doesn’t have to stop using their old weed garden twice a month – but they might want to for their own health.
Enforcement is still an open question, but this is one of the reasons why the RAQC is considering recommending this ban across the country rather than just in the Northern Front Range area. It is easier to standardize the ban over a larger area than to have a patchwork of local or regional regulations.
RAQC is a government-created board consisting of government leaders and local elected officials. The board recommends plans to the Colorado Department of Health and Environment’s Air Quality Control Commission and writes the state’s air quality implementation plans.
Although the plan has not been officially proposed or voted on yet, the board seems to agree that this regulation would be an easy way to reduce harmful pollutants at a low cost and will likely recommend implementing something similar to what is discussed. The board’s official vote should take place within the next few months, after which it will go to the Colorado government to implement as a regulatory process.
If you’re in Colorado (or anywhere else that has air), check it out Electrek‘Green Deals’ section where we regularly post green tech deals. You’ll find deals on electric lawn equipment quite often, so save yourself a few bucks while also helping to save your neighborhood’s lungs and ears. And check with your state’s clean air regulator to see if rebates are available—here’s Colorado’s site (and here’s California’s ), but there may be incentives available if you live in another state, too.
FTC: We use income earning auto affiliate links. More.