The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is about to implement sweeping new regulations for spark-ignition engines less than 25 hp that will introduce new types of standards it has never regulated before. The new standards, some of which will take affect this coming January, will affect more than 1,000 different types of equipment, according to the EPA's estimates.
In addition to significantly reducing NOx, hydrocarbon and carbon monoxide emissions from these sources, the regulations will restrict the amount of fuel that can evaporate from fuel lines, gas caps and fuel tanks starting in 2008. The regulations also include the first federal standards for boats powered by stern drive or inboard engines and the first federal standards for carbon monoxide emissions from recreational watercraft, both of which will be phased in starting in 2009.
The regulations affecting emissions from lawn and garden equipment will reduce HC and NOx emissions by 35% once they start taking effect with the 2011 model year. That's over and above the 60% reduction achieved through the last round of emission regulations on lawn and garden equipment, which completed their phase-in last year. Initially, the new round was slated to cover both handheld and non-handheld equipment, but the EPA shelved plans for stricter emission standards for the handheld equipment, concluding that existing standards represent the "greatest degree of emission reduction achievable for these engines."
While the regulations are sweeping, engine and equipment manufacturers believe they are achievable.
"Meeting the substantial emissions reductions called for in the EPA proposal will be a challenging goal," says Jed Mandel, president of the Engine Manufacturers Assn. (EMA). "Our assessment is that the EPA has proposed an aggressive, but implementable, program to make further emission reductions a reality for the small spark-ignition engine and equipment industries."
Sitting down with regulators and environmentalists
A primary reason for industry acceptance is the approach EPA used to write the rules. The agency sat down with engine and equipment manufacturers, as well as environmentalists, to negotiate a regulation that would be satisfactory to everyone.
"We have been working on this for quite some time, and we are cautiously optimistic that we can meet the significant technological challenges and infrastructrural developments associated with the EPA program," says Bill Harley, president and CEO of the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI), the trade group that represents many of the equipment manufacturers impacted by the regulation.
No one questioned the inevitability of regulations. On an hour-by-hour basis, a push mower emits as much NOx and carbon monoxide pollution as 11 cars, a riding mower's emissions equal 34 cars, and the exhaust generated by recreational watercraft contains as much pollution as 348 cars, according to EPA estimates.
Industry representatives were eager to work with the EPA because they knew that blanket regulations could smother small manufacturers who lack the staff, money or other resources necessary to bring all of their products into compliance at once. The resulting compromise is a set of strict standards softened by extended lead times and an average banking and trading mechanism that allows manufacturers to focus on bringing their high-volume, profit-generating products into compliance first before addressing their niche products, which have limited sales.
"One of our biggest concerns with the regulations was they contain flexibility and sufficient lead times and they do," says Harley.
Catalytic converter technology
Catalytic converters are expected to be one the chief strategies equipment manufacturers employ to meet the new standards, an approach that could increase the price of walk-behind mowers by 18% and the price of commercial turf-care mowers by 3%, according to the California Air Resources Board (CARB), which will implement similar standards this January.
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