Roughly nine months after the City of San Clemente’s ban on gas-powered leaf blowers went into effect in November 2022, the city announced incentive programs for individual residents and organizations to assist the transition to electric equipment.
Both the California Air Resource Board (CARB) and the South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD) have programs that aim to offset the costs of using new devices, as they have been assisting individuals and organizations for decades.
The city’s ban was intended to reduce noise and greenhouse gas emissions. Specifically, electric leaf blowers must have a sound rating certification; should be used between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. on weekdays and from 8 a.m.-6 p.m. on weekends and holidays; cannot deposit any waste onto neighboring properties or into gutters; and are required to be operated with a muffler attachment and blower tubes.
Incentive programs include CARB’s Clean Off-Road Equipment Voucher Incentive Project (CORE), AQMD’s Electric Lawn Mower Rebate program for residents, and others for small businesses.
Walter Shen, planning and rules manager within AQMD’s Technology Advancement Office, spoke to the San Clemente Times about what the district has experienced in recent years as the state continues to prioritize lowering greenhouse gas emissions.
Executive Order N-79-20, which Gov. Gavin Newsom signed in Sept. 2020, was the spark to municipalities and other organizations across California to ban gas- and diesel-powered equipment, according to Shen.
“That executive order, more or less, is framing out how zero-emission-related projects are going to look in California,” he said. “It set out certain timelines on when manufacturers are supposed to move forward with zero emission equipment or when the end user is supposed to be adopting those kinds of commercially available technologies.”
San Clemente’s ordinance, which was approved in September 2021 and went into effect in 2022, was along the same timeline as other cities that moved quickly to adopt similar mandates.
Given the economic impacts that organizations faced in transitioning to zero-emission technology, Shen said, AQMD and his particular office acted to assist all who were impacted by the executive order.
“Our incentive programs provide a sense of relief to be able to offset these economic burdens,” he said, adding: “Nevertheless, South Coast AQMD is aware of the impacts, and our incentives work to make sure that these mission objectives are being moved forward.”
Shen pointed to the success of numerous initiatives that have trickled down to the residential level. The Carl Moyer Program, which replaces heavy-duty diesel vehicles and equipment through competitive grants, has run for 25 years; the Residential Electric Lawn Mower Rebate Program and EV Charging Incentive Program have both operated between five and 10 years.
“The demand is there, and we anticipate to keep up with that demand,” he said.
Further, Shen added that the incentives’ popularity has grown exponentially in recent years, and the district has done well in implementing related programs.
“With my time here in the technology investment office, the trajectory has always, always been trending upwards, in that the demand has always exceeded the supply of incentive funds,” said Shen.
The California Air Resources Board’s CORE is part of a robust list of incentives the South Coast AQMD facilitates. Along with the San Joaquin Valley APCD, South Coast is the only district to provide CORE, professional Carl Moyer Funding, professional rebates and residential rebates.
CORE is another point-of-sale discount for professional landscape services, small businesses and microbusinesses, and sole proprietors, in using landscaping equipment. More information is available at californiacore.org.
South Coast AQMD’s website also has a page for programs concerning commercial electric lawn and garden equipment. That page lists the ongoing Commercial Lawn and Garden Equipment Exchange Program (eL&G Program), for which commercial industry professionals, local government agencies, academic institutions and nonprofit organizations are eligible.
Participants bring operable gasoline or diesel equipment to participating retailers, then select from a variety of new, commercial-grade devices.
The retailers then apply for vouchers, which will be applied as point-of-sale discounts toward the new equipment’s purchase price, and test the old equipment, drain the remaining fluids, and send the equipment away to be permanently destroyed.
According to AQMD, the program’s goal is to “improve air quality by exchanging older, polluting gasoline- or diesel-powered commercial lawn and garden equipment for new zero-emission, battery-electric commercial grade equipment for operation.”
The program provides up to an 85% discount for eligible participants. The funding caps are up to $700 for chainsaws, trimmers, edgers and brushcutters; $1,400 for leaf blowers and vacuums; $1,500 for walk-behind lawn mowers; and $15,000 for ride-on or stand/sit lawn mowers.
In total, Shen highlighted three programs for residents that contribute toward better air quality, starting with the lawn mower program.
“It’s a rebate program where we can provide incentives of up to $250 towards the purchase of electric- (or) battery-operated lawn mowers,” he said. “The residents have to scrap the old gasoline-powered mower, and that in itself would curtail emissions that’s associated with gas-powered mowers.”
The Replace Your Ride program is an income-driven incentive, in which AQMD provides up to $12,000 toward purchasing an eligible “clean” vehicle. It is also another scrap-and-replace program that destroys existing gas vehicles.
Finally, the EV charging initiative provides up to $500 in rebates to offset the cost of a Level 2 charger.
“South Coast AQMD is very pleased to be providing and to be partnering with the community and with local organizations to forward our objectives, to meet the public health standards and air quality goals,” Shen said. “We anticipate and are excited to continue moving along that direction and trajectory.”
More information about incentive programs, AQMD’s mission and district updates can be found at aqmd.gov.