Clean air laws target landscaper’s equipment

It was only a matter of time before Canada’s clean air regulations caught up with the landscape industry. For most of the last 20 years, the clear focus has been on the nation’s burgeoning population of cars and trucks (18 million registered vehicles at the last count). Until recently, little or no attention has been paid to the pollution created by the nations’ equally formidable population of lawn mowers, hand held chainsaws and assorted trimmers and blowers.

     All that changed in February this year when federal Environment Minister David Anderson made public the latest phase of the federal government’s national Clean Air Strategy. As it has under the EPA’s powerful regulations in the United States, the full range of off-road equipment was included under the provisions of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA). Emission standards and targets have been set for the full range of new small equipment in daily use by both homeowners and landscape industry specialists.

     The growing pollution gap between the performance of a tightly regulated family car and that of an entirely unregulated garden lawn mower was best expressed in remarks by Minister Anderson to the Senate Standing Committee on Energy, Environment and Natural Resources. “We all know that car emissions contribute to air pollution. But did you know that running a lawn mower for one hour is equivalent to driving a car 500 kilometres?”

     The answer is probably “no.” The average Canadian had no idea the family lawn mower was capable of harming the environment in any substantial way. Environment Canada’s calculation however, is that the vast array of specialized two-stroke equipment we rely on to keep our gardens and properties clean and tidy is responsible for at least 20 per cent of the nation’s air pollution.

     Both government and industry were quick to recognize the difficulty in attaching a catalytic converter to the family lawn mower. A more profound fix was required if the small engine industry was to produce a new and cleaner of the array of equipment in time for 2004 when Canada’s clean air regulations go into full legal force. For most manufacturers that has meant a return to the drawing board for newer and more efficient engine designs capable of delivering improved emissions.

     In the short term, the government is depending on Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) signed with most of the major equipment manufacturers. These MOUs ensure the early delivery of equipment that conforms to the new clean air regulations and also allows the industry to prepare for regulations that will come into mandatory force in 2004. The long-range target, explains Ross White, director of the Transportation Systems branch with Environment Canada, is a reduction in emissions from small engines in excess of 50 per cent.

     In the handheld utility engines category, MOUs of conformance have been signed by the Portable Power Equipment Manufacturer’s Association, nine of its members and two independent companies, all of whom have agreed to supply engines to the Canadian market, which comply with U.S. federal Phase 1 emissions standards starting in 2001. The category covers such items as string trimmers, chain saws and leaf blowers. The non-handheld utility machine category, which covers lawnmowers, ride-on mowers, portable generators and pumps, has won MOU conformance starting in 2002 from nine engine manufacturers.

     In the heavy duty, diesel off-road engine category, which covers all forms of agricultural tractor equipment plus construction machinery, 13 engine manufacturers have signed con­formance agreements with the federal government and intend to deliver engines that comply with the new Canadian standards, starting this year. This MOU is expected to reduce smog-causing nitrogen-oxide emissions from these category machines by 25 per cent by 2010.