Friday, December 15, 2006

Catalytic Converters for Lawn Mowers

As they are already being used in other countries, it appears they should be adopted here, notwithstanding the manufacturer’s resistance. Clean air is an issue everyone agrees on, at least everyone breathing it, or the alternative.

Editorial: Short grass, clean air
Coming: Lawn mowers that pollute less
Published 12:00 am PST Friday, December 15, 2006

For four years, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency dithered while lawn mowers and leaf blowers sold in California continued to belch smog- forming chemicals that state regulators had sought to control. Under pressure from a Republican Congress reluctant to impose new environmental rules on their allies in industry, the federal EPA bottled up California's proposed new rules to control small engine emissions.

State regulators wanted those manufacturers to do what car makers have done for two generations: install catalytic converters. This week, EPA finally relented.

It granted California the waivers the state needs to impose its unique, toughest-in-the-nation standards on companies that build mostly garden equipment powered by engines under 50 horsepower. Such engines account for 7 percent of the emissions coming from all mobile sources in the state, the equivalent of about 3 million cars.

California's new rules will go into effect next year. Unfortunately other states will not be able to benefit from them. Congress passed a law barring other states from adopting the California rule and ordered EPA to set its own federal standard to regulate small engines. The agency has not yet issued that standard, but it is widely anticipated to be far more permissive than California's.

Still, the California rule could lead companies to build cleaner garden equipment on their own. A number of foreign manufacturers have done so for a long time, in compliance with higher standards in place in many other parts of the world.