WASHINGTON – Hope that lawn mowers, leaf blowers and other small engines will soon spew less smog has run into an unexpected roadblock – safety.
A Senate committee approved a compromise Thursday that requires federal regulators to first study the safety of more environmentally friendly small engines before requiring manufacturers to build them.
The provision, added to a big environmental spending bill, is a compromise between a Missouri Republican who wanted to put the new federal rules on hold for even longer and California lawmakers who are trying to reduce their state’s smog problems. Environmental groups called it a setback for cleaner air standards.
After some last-minute negotiating, the Senate Appropriations Committee watered down a provision by Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., that requires the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to conduct a safety study before issuing new pollution controls for small engines.
Bond says the clean-air regulations would make small engines less safe, but critics claim the senator is trying to protect Briggs & Stratton Corp., the Milwaukee-based engine maker that employs more than 1,000 workers at two Missouri factories. The company has said it may close those plants if the new regulations are approved.
The committee action, on a voice vote, sends the bill to the full Senate.
Bond said catalytic converters that would be added to outdoor power tools to make them cleaner may be a fire hazard.
The EPA now has only six months after the spending bill is passed to complete its safety study. Bond’s original amendment set no time limit.
Bond’s critics say the EPA is already six months behind schedule in proposing new rules and claim the study is just a guise to further delay the process.
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