California’s newest clean-air law narrowly escaped an attempt to shoot it down in the U.S. Congress.
Faced with the worst air pollution in the nation, the state has led
the way in enacting tough air-quality regulations. But although
California has made progress in combating auto emissions, pollution
from small engines like lawnmowers and weed whackers has become
proportionally greater. In September, California’s Air
Resources Board issued a rule that could force small-engine
manufacturers to redesign their products to dramatically lower
“Something like a regular lawnmower is
probably 13 times dirtier than a car,” says Jerry Martin, a
spokesman for the Air Resources Board. “If it’s an old
raggedy lawnmower, it could be as much as 40 cars. You’re
talking about a lot of dirty air.”
But Briggs &
Stratton, the largest small-engine manufacturer in the United
States, finagled support in the U.S. Congress for overturning
California’s new rule. The company argued that, to remain
cost-competitive under the new regulation, it would have to move
thousands of jobs overseas. According to the company, that would
include 2,000 jobs from its two major factories in Missouri —
whose senior senator, Kit Bond, R, chairs the subcommittee which
funds the federal Environmental Protection Agency.
Characterizing the California rule as a move “to force-feed
the nation dangerous new regulations without concern for job loss
or safety,” Bond tacked a rider onto a spending bill that
would take authority to regulate engines under 50 horsepower away
from the states and turn it over to the EPA.
last-minute compromise allows California to regulate small engines;
other states, however, must follow the EPA’s regulations, due
out by the end of 2005.