Forward-looking: California has made significant progress toward its climate goals in recent years, and it will likely continue to do so in the future. One way it hopes to achieve that is through a potential ban on the sale of gas-powered, off-road machinery, such as lawnmowers, generators, and more.

During the 2021 legislative season in California, assembly members Marc Berman and Lorena Gonzales introduced a bill that targets small off-road engines. As of October 9, state Governor Gavin Newsom signed off on that piece of legislature, among dozens of others.

The bill requires California's State Air Resources Board to adopt "cost-effective" and "technologically feasible" regulations to prevent emissions from new small off-road engines (SORE). According to the bill, the emissions output of these SORES can rapidly surpass the output of full-sized gas vehicles.

For example, the bill states that one hour of operating a "commercial leaf blower" (gas-powered) is roughly the same, in terms of air pollution, as driving 1,100 miles in a "new passenger vehicle." Given that there are far more SORES in California than full-sized vehicles, it's not difficult to see where the problem lies.

California's assembly members understand that switching production from gas to electric (or other) power sources could be a difficult and expensive process. To avoid putting an unnecessary burden on SORE makers, the state plans to set aside up to $30 million in commercial rebates to assist in the transition.

If this bill successfully takes effect, the deadline for enforcement will be January 1, 2024, or "as soon as the state board determines is feasible," whichever comes later. It remains to be seen precisely how the State Air Resources Board will interpret the language of AB-1346, and judging by that flexible deadline, it'll probably be quite a while before we find out.

We should also note that limiting the sale of new gas-powered SOREs is only the first part of the puzzle. By 2035, California hopes to reach "100 percent zero emissions" for the devices, which is a much more ambitious goal with, understandably, a much more forgiving deadline.

Image credit: Erik Mclean, Andres Siimon