Washington state is considering legislation imitating California’s ban on new gas-powered outdoor equipment, but adding hefty fines and jail sentences to those who use such tools.
Under the Washington proposal, gas-powered equipment under 25 horsepower would be banned starting in 2026.
Experts in the logging and landscaping businesses point to huge and ongoing expenses for electric and battery equipment that will not get the job done and may even be unsafe.
Many landscaping businesses in both states are owned and operated by minority Hispanic and Black entrepreneurs whose businesses would be affected by the ban.
A Washington state legislator has introduced a House bill to prohibit new gas-powered outdoor equipment beginning in 2026. New gas-fueled lawnmowers, chainsaws, rototillers, weed whackers, log splitters, leaf blowers, pressure washers, stump grinders, wood chippers, snow blowers and other equipment with 25-horsepower or less would be banned. The legislation, House Bill 1868, also would exempt electric-powered equipment from sales taxes and provide $5 million a year to local governments to replace gas equipment. The ban would add to Washington’s existing ban on new gas- and diesel-powered cars and pickups beginning with 2035 models and plans to ban new gas and diesel heavy-duty trucks beginning with 2036 models. Washington’s proposed bill would allow federal, state and local governments to use gas-powered equipment to fight fires, clean up oil spills and respond to other emergencies. But others caught violating the ban would be subject to a $10,000 fine and one year in jail.
According to the Washington Association of Landscape Professionals, while there are advances in electric-powered equipment, a ban would be a problem, especially for smaller businesses. Mid-size electric lawnmowers are more expensive than gas mowers. Businesses might recoup the investment in the long run, but spending the money upfront would be hard. According to the Orange County Register, commercial-grade electric-powered gear can cost anywhere from 15 percent to 300 percent more upfront, before factoring in the cost of batteries, chargers and potential electrical upgrades needed to keep them running all day. For example, an electric sit-down lawn mower could cost $30,000 versus a $12,000 gas-powered version.
There is also the issue of the practicality of plugging in field equipment or having enough battery power to work all day. It will take landscapers significantly more time to do the same amount of work due to inefficient battery-powered tools. Battery life and power cannot meet the demands of larger or more intensive landscaping projects. Landscapers also would need to upgrade electrical systems in their shops to handle the voltage needed to charge zero-emissions gear.
And while electric equipment has advanced, electric leaf blowers are still ineffective in moving wet leaves and the technology is not cost-competitive. While the proposed bill would allow the Department of Ecology to delay banning gas-powered equipment if electric options were not feasible, it might not consider the higher costs involved.
According to the Washington Contract Loggers Association, electric chainsaws will not work for the logging industry. While electric chainsaws could work for homeowners and possibly some light landscaping, they are not efficient enough or productive enough for commercial operations. Large commercial chainsaws would fall under the purview of the bill as they are generally under 25 horsepower. The association also sees less-powerful electric chainsaws as dangerous.
The ban would also have a disproportionate impact on Latino and black business owners as 22.8 percent of landscaping companies are owned by Hispanics and 14.7 percent are owned by blacks. The financial burden could disproportionately affect minority-owned businesses, potentially leading to a reduction in diversity within the industry. In California, where immigrant and non-White residents make up higher shares of lawn care workers, a state lawmaker introduced a bill that would let businesses recoup 40 percent of costs to buy electric/battery gardening equipment. California just started implementing its own law which is similar to Washington’s proposal.
According to the California proposed bill, landscape businesses could write off up to 40 percent of what they spent the prior year to buy the gear, including plug-in or cordless tools plus any batteries or chargers that power those tools. The credit also could be used to help upgrade existing equipment to make it zero-emission. Businesses could get up to $25,000 back on purchases each year, for no more than $100,000 in credits over a 10-year period. And the credit would apply to any equipment purchased on or after January 1, 2023.
California was the first state to mandate the forced electrification of vehicles and the banning of new gas-powered outdoor equipment. California air quality regulators voted in December 2021 to ban the sale of new gas-powered leaf blowers, lawn mowers, weed trimmers and chainsaws starting January 1, 2024. Washington state is following in those footsteps, but adding jail time and fines for violators of its proposed bill. Both the logging and landscape industries see the proposal as unworkable for their industries due to the higher cost of electric equipment, the impracticality of plugging the equipment in at work sites and/or hoping that the battery would last all day without needing duplicate equipment. Further, they claim that electric equipment is not efficient enough or productive enough for their operations. Diversity is also a factor as many landscaping companies are owned by Latinos or blacks. Legislators seem to think they know more about small businesses and their business than the owners and employees of these operations. In reality, few of them know much about hard work, or how to employ the best tools to get that work accomplished.