Colorado unlikely to ban sales of gas-powered lawn equipment

A Colorado commission that sets policies designed to control air pollution deferred a decision Friday on how to regulate gas-powered lawn and garden equipment, but it’s unlikely a sales prohibition will be part of the state’s future plan.

The Air Quality Control Commission asked staff at the state’s Air Pollution Control Division to draft a new policy for it to consider at its February meeting, and based on members’ instructions, it does not appear the majority is interested in any sale prohibitions.

Earlier this week, the commission debated two proposals — one written by the state agency and a more stringent plan submitted by the Regional Air Quality Council, a group with a mission to lower air pollution along the Front Range.

Based on instructions to staff, the commission is likely to order state and local governments to stop using gas-powered equipment, which is what the state agency had proposed. But it’s unclear if that ban would be limited to the Front Range or be a statewide mandate. It’s also unknown if the use would only be limited during the summer months or when it would go into effect.

Environmental advocates have pushed this year for a prohibition on the sale of new gas-powered push mowers, weed whackers, hedge trimmers, chainsaws and other equipment because they dump tons of pollutants into the air, including volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides. They wanted the commission to limit use by homeowners and commercial contractors as well as government agencies.

The Regional Air Quality Council’s proposal called for a ban on the sale of new gas-powered law equipment that would begin in 2025 across the nine-county region that stretches from Douglas County in the south to Larimer and Weld counties in the north.

Instead, it appears the air quality commission will choose the weaker option presented to them, even though commissioners had asked the Regional Air Quality Council for help with new proposals that would decrease ground-level ozone pollution.

“We appreciate the thoughtful conversation the AQCC had surrounding this topic but are disappointed in the decision to review new language without the stronger measures included,” said David Sabados, a spokesman for the council. “After directing the RAQC to return this year with more proposals to reduce ground-level ozone in order to meet attainment, the AQCC is likely to move forward with only modest efforts that will only have modest gains.”

The Environmental Protection Agency has listed the Front Range as being in severe non-attainment of federal air quality standards. That comes with consequences for people who live and work in the region.

Aside from breathing dirty air that is harmful to their Health, Front Range residents will start paying more for gasoline this coming summer because the EPA will require gas stations to sell a special blend that reduces emissions. And more companies will be forced to apply for air pollution permits, which means they have more regulations to follow and more paperwork to track.

The downgrade to being a severe violator of air quality standards came after the nine-county Front Range region failed to meet a 2008 goal that requires ozone emissions to fall under 75 parts per billion annually. The region needs to meet that goal by 2027 to comply with EPA regulations.

However, the region also has failed to reach a 2015 benchmark that said ozone emissions must be under 70 parts per billion annually. The deadline to reach that goal is next year, and state officials already say Colorado will fail to achieve it.

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