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California

Last week, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) approved an amendment to the Small Off-Road Engine (SORE) Regulations which effectively bans the sale of all carbon-emitting landscape equipment beginning in 2024.

As passed today, the updated SORE regulation would allow users of gas-powered landscape equipment to continue to use their equipment. However, it would only allow zero-emission equipment to be sold starting in the model year 2024.

These recently updated regulations are part of the state’s attempt to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. California also aims to mandate that 100% of in-state sales of new passenger cars and trucks are zero-emission by 2035.

Under a special exemption to the Clean Air Act, California can create its own regulations relating to emissions. No other state can do the same. Though CARB has issued the regulations, the rules can’t take effect until the EPA approves the waiver – a process that can take many months to finalize, according to the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP).

In light of the news, NALP released the following statement: The landscape industry shares Governor Newsom and other California policymakers’ desire to reduce carbon emissions as quickly as possible. Still, we are disappointed that CARB has decided to move forward with the 2024 timeline despite the information presented by the landscape industry and other interested stakeholders that the battery-powered equipment currently on the market isn’t sufficient for high-volume commercial use.

The NALP statement continues: By its own calculations, CARB could have allowed for a slightly longer transition, beginning in 2026, and still have achieved its targeted emission reduction goals. Currently, 85% of the gas-powered landscape equipment in California is used by residential customers – only 15% is commercial/professional grade. NALP has advocated that CARB delay the transition for commercial users to allow time to get the electrical infrastructure in place, allow the equipment to advance, and provide a longer transition time for businesses.

Recognizing the numbers between residential and commercial users, the California Landscape Contractors Association (CLCA) was pushing for a solution ending the sale of residential landscape SORE by 2024, but allowing commercial SORE to be sold until 2028. “CLCA’s members were candid and forthcoming about their concerns for such an accelerated timeline to ban the sale of SORE landscape equipment starting in the model year 2024,” said Sandra Giarde, CLCA’s executive director. “The reality is that the currently available battery-powered commercial landscape equipment has a way to go before meeting the needs of the full-time landscape professional. California’s landscape industry supports the transition to zero-emission equipment, but a 2024 deadline is too soon, given numerous unresolved technological and financial hurdles.” She continued, “We felt our compromise solution could achieve the state’s 2031 emission reduction goals while reducing the impacts on landscape professionals.”

Paul Hansen, CLCA’s State President, commented, “Despite today’s decision by CARB members, CLCA will continue efforts to ensure adequate funding will be made available for rebate programs and tax credits to ease the transition.”
Giarde echoed the statement. “The Legislature only appropriated $30 million for rebate programs, which would be about $15 per piece of equipment for professionals,” she said. “With California facing a $3 billion budget surplus, we will be working to secure additional funds to help landscape professionals make the transition.”