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California Adopts Strict Standards for Trucks and Lawn Equipment

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) – Forget about speeding tickets – California truck drivers will soon have to watch out for pollution tickets.

State regulators voted Thursday to crack down on heavy trucks weighing over 14,000 pounds (6,350 kilograms) – those large semi-trailers that make up only 3% of all vehicles in California but spend so much time on the road that they account for more than half of all pollution caused by cars and trucks each year.

New rules will require these large trucks, including those in other states passing through California, to be tested at least four times a year to ensure they meet state standards for particulate pollution. and ozone.

To enforce the rules, state officials say they will install roadside surveillance devices to catch trucks that pollute too much. Automated license plate readers would help authorities identify violators, who could be cited if they refused to make repairs.

The state has two such unattended surveillance devices in place and plans to install more. The devices look like toll booths and capture a sample of the truck’s exhaust as it passes without stopping.

Conservationists have said the rule – mandated by a 2019 law drafted by State Senator Connie Leyva – is the most significant action in a dozen years to clean up California’s air , which consistently ranks among the dirtiest in the country. State officials estimate the rules will prevent more than 7,000 premature deaths from respiratory illnesses by 2050, averting more than $ 75 billion in health care costs.

“(The rules) have some significance for the climate, but what we’re really talking about here is smog and particles that make people sick and kill people,” said Bill Magavern, director of policy at the Coalition for Clean Air, a statewide advocacy group.

The proposal is part of a wave of upcoming changes that could dramatically reshape consumer and industry behavior in the country’s most populous state which, if it were an independent country, would have the fifth largest economy in the world.

Also Thursday, the California Air Resources Board has agreed to prohibit the sale of new products powered by small gasoline engines, including leaf blowers, lawnmowers and portable generators – a rule recently imposed by the Legislature of state dominated by Democrats. Next year, the regulators are about to tighten emission standards for barges, ferries, fishing boats and tugs that line the coastal cities of California.

And, later, regulators plan to ban the sale of all new gasoline cars by 2035.

“These are the decisions we need to make if we are truly to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and leave healthier communities for future generations,” said MP Marc Berman, a Democrat from Palo Alto who drafted the law requiring the ban on new gas. -powered lawn equipment.

While new smog control rules for large trucks will have the biggest impact on air quality – preventing more than 680,000 tonnes of smog by 2050 – the ban on the sale of new lawn equipment gasoline will be the rule consumers notice the most.

Car engines have evolved over the years to pollute less. But the small engines that power most lawn equipment have not made as much progress. The state regulators say the amount of pollution resulting from the use of a blower gasoline leaves for an hour is like driving a gasoline car about 1 100 miles (1 770 km) roughly the distance between Los Angeles and Denver.

“No one should give up or stop using the equipment they already have. The strength of this regulation rests with the manufacturers, ”said Berman.

The rules will have the biggest impact on professional landscapers, who rely on gasoline-powered equipment to do multiple jobs per day. California lawmakers included $ 30 million in the latest state budget to help these companies convert to battery-powered equipment. But on Thursday, some landscapers testified that the equipment would not be as reliable.

The main complaints from trucking companies and small engine manufacturers were how quickly these new standards would be imposed. Smog control rules for trucks and the ban on the sale of new gasoline-powered lawn equipment would be fully implemented by 2024, while a similar ban on the sale of new gasoline generators would come into effect in 2028 .

Some representatives of the trucking industry on Thursday urged regulators to test the rule first with a pilot program before implementing it statewide. The parts that truckers must adhere to are increasingly difficult and expensive to find, leading to concerns that this might force some trucks off the road while waiting for repairs and aggravate chain problems. supply that have hampered businesses and frustrated consumers.

Chris Shimoda, senior vice president of government affairs for the California Trucking Association, said a sensor that truckers often need normally costs around $ 300 and can now cost $ 7,000 or more. But the new rules allow expansions for people who have difficulty obtaining coins.

“We just want to make sure that, again, anyone who is faced with these kinds of issues is not left behind,” Shimoda said.

Jeff Coad, vice president of marketing and product management for small engine maker Briggs & Stratton, said the company was ambivalent about how its products were powered, but it wouldn’t have enough time to fully comply.

“Converting a product like a large zero-turn mower from a gasoline battery to a lithium battery is not just about replacing the engine with the battery,” he said, adding that development time can take up to two years.

Liane Randolph, chair of the California Air Resources Board, said the state is sensitive to these concerns, adding that regulators are doing a careful analysis of the health costs and benefits of any proposed rule.

“These regulations mean less trips to the emergency room, less long-term health impact and, frankly, less medical costs for the community,” she said.

Adam Beam, Associated Press