Rantz: Democrat bill would jail people using gas-powered leaf blowers

Dec 12, 2023, 5:55 PM

Washington gas ban...

A man working with a leaf blower on July 24, 2023. (Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

(Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

The Democrat war on gas continues. Now, Democrats propose jailing Washingtonians for using gas-powered landscaping tools like leaf blowers.

State Representative Amy Walen (D-Kirkland) pre-filed legislation that makes sweeping additions to the Washington State Clean Air Act. HB 1868 bans “gasoline-powered and diesel-powered landscaping and other outdoor power equipment” for “contributing to climate change.” The bill lists a number of unintended health consequences tied to the tools, as well, including the claim that they cause asthma.

The bill gets to the ban by empowering the Department of Ecology to “adopt rules to prohibit engine exhaust and evaporative emissions from new outdoor power equipment” by either January 1, 2026 or sooner, if the state determines it’s feasible to do so earlier. Washingtonians are expected to upgrade their equipment to zero-emission alternatives. Government work, however, is partly exempt.

To make the transition more palatable, the zero-emission alternatives would not be subject to a sales tax. But it would still be prohibitively expensive for many small businesses.

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Is that gas in your leaf blower? To jail you go!

Violating this law could mean up to 365 days in jail or a significant fine.

Traditionally, violating bans like this wouldn’t land someone a jail sentence. You don’t throw a grocer in the pokey for handing a customer a plastic bag filled with plastic straws. They get warnings and fines, but no jail time. Yet, when one’s goal is driven by a cult-like environmentalist movement, one is more willing to go to extremes. Though their extremes have some limits.

The ban would apply to both government entities and private contractors working for the government — until it doesn’t.

Though Walen blames leaf blowers and other small tools for destroying the planet, her legislation exempts all government agencies or contractors working for the government from adhering to the ban under emergency circumstances. Gas powered equipment is far more powerful than the battery-powered alternatives. When it’s an emergency, Walen wants the work done quickly and effectively; if it’s for a business, she effectively says, “tough luck.”

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What happened to equity?

Though Democrats argue their legislation should be viewed through an equity lens, this ban has a disproportionate impact on Latino and black business owners. Nationwide data stated 22.8% of landscaping companies are owned by Hispanics and 14.7% are owned by blacks.

The cost to transition to zero-emission alternatives is burdensome, too, even with financial assistance provided in the bill. For some businesses, it could still be prohibitively expensive. This financial burden could disproportionately affect minority-owned businesses, potentially leading to a reduction in diversity within the industry, if Democrat talking points are to be believed.

This ban is also anti-business, of course. Not only will it take landscapers significantly more time to do the same amount of work, thanks to inefficient battery-powered tools, it can be very expensive. Writing in the Orange County Register, Brooke Staggs notes the strain this can put on small businesses: “Commercial-grade electric-powered gear can cost anywhere from 15% to 300% more upfront, before factoring in the cost of batteries, chargers and potential electrical upgrades needed to keep them running all day.”

Larger companies can more easily absorb the cost of transitioning to electric equipment, but the smaller businesses, which represent the majority of the industry, will struggle. It’s also worth considering the current limitations of electric landscaping equipment, such as battery life and power, which can’t meet the demands of larger or more intensive landscaping projects. Even with tax credits, will they last long enough to cover the constant need to upgrade to better and more efficient technology?

Lazy environmentalism

I’m no fan of loud gas-powered landscaping equipment. But I’m equally unimpressed with the lazy environmentalism this legislation forces on Washingtonians.

Obviously, Walen doesn’t view the gas-powered tools as an existential threat. Otherwise, governments wouldn’t get any exemptions. The bill’s proponents could help educate businesses and offer tax incentives to make the transition, but that would be too hard and take up too much time. It’s so much easier to force the change, even if it creates meaningful business challenges or causes resentment from Washingtonians.

So what is the motivation for a ban like this? Power.

Walen and other radical environmentalists love the power to change people’s behaviors. If they can change your habits to save the environment, without having to change their own (they don’t want you flying or eating meat, but they’ll eat a steak on a private jet), even better.

That kind of power is elusive — until you get into office in a one-party state. Then the power is yours to abuse and that’s precisely what they’re doing here.

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