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San Francisco targets fossil fuel-powered landscaping tools for extinction

San Francisco might ban the use of gas-powered landscaping tools in favor of electric tools to cut down on pollution and protect the health of the landscaping workforce.

District 7 Supervisor Myrna Melgar introduced the proposed legislation at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, called the Healthier, Cleaner, Quieter Communities Act, and said the proposal would be one of the strictest in California.

Under the proposal, gas-powered equipment used by The City and its contractors would be phased out starting Jan. 1, 2024. The general public would not need to begin phasing out the use of the tools until two years later.

The use of gas-powered equipment for landscaping purposes can have negative health effects to the workers who constantly use them each day, Melgar said:

This legislation seeks to alleviate the environmental injustice that exposes the mostly immigrant landscaping workforce to disease and the cost borne by their families and communities.”

If passed, the proposal would also create a fund to support The City’s and the public’s transition to electric tools, including wholesale purchasing equipment for city agencies and support for disposing of old equipment. Similar to a gun buyback program, a buyback program for small engine gas-powered buyback programs would also be set up for landscapers, Melgar said.

The Department of Environment will be the lead department in education, enforcement and helping with the transition as well as annually certifying commercially available small engines that are environmentally friendly.

Melgar’s proposed legislation has the support of supervisors Connie Chan, Gordon Mar and Catherine Stefani. A number of organizations are also supporting the proposal, including the San Francisco Bay Area Chapter of the Sierra Club.

The California Air Resources Board announced in December regulations that will require newly manufactured off-road small engines found in landscaping tools, such as leaf blowers and lawn mowers, to be zero emission by 2024.

CARB said that despite the small size of the engines found in the tools, they are engines that are “highly pollutant.” The board said a person using a leaf blower for one hour emits the same amount of pollution of a car that has driven 1,100 miles.

The state has set aside $30 million to help sole proprietors, landscaping businesses in purchasing landscaping tools that are zero emission.

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of the story said Supervisor Rafael Mandelman was a cosponsor of the legislation. He is not. The story has been updated to reflect this change.

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