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Area Rent-Alls general manager Shaun Jones sprays disinfectant onto a customer’s new Toro lawn mower outside the small-engine sales and equipment rental business’s shop in Westminster on May 13, 2020. (Andy Colwell, Special to The Colorado Sun)

Colorado lawmakers pushing a sweeping bill to try to reduce greenhouse gas emissions have backed off a controversial plan to ban the sale and advertising of gas-powered lawn equipment along the northern Front Range, including the Denver metro area. 

Senate Bill 138 on Tuesday evening was stripped of a provision that would have prohibited the sale or advertising of devices with “small off-road engines” — such as lawn mowers and leaf blowers — starting on Jan. 1, 2030, in areas of the state with air pollution worse than what the Clean Air Act allows.

These so-called non-attainment areas include the entire Denver metro area.

Lawn-equipment is an outsized source of pollution and the idea behind the provision was to try to reduce Colorado’s ozone emissions and improve the state’s poor air quality. 

State Sen. Chris Hansen, a Denver Democrat and prime sponsor of the bill, said he removed the ban to instead focus on the provisions in the bill incentivizing people to switch to electric-powered lawn equipment through tax credits.

“The incentives for purchases are really the meat of that section,” he said. “I think we’re going to have a nice set of carrots.”

Conservatives panned the gas-powered lawn equipment ban, with the executive director of Americans for Prosperity Colorado saying the Democrats were trying to control how Coloradans cut their lawns. 

The executive director, Jesse Mallory, even posted a video on Twitter of goats at the Colorado Capitol to suggest that Democrats may force the state’s residents to use the animals to keep their grass short. 

“Colorado should remove barriers to innovation to unleash our entrepreneurs toward developing new technology that has proven far more effective at protecting our environment and protecting ratepayers than any top-down mandate or regulation,” Mallory said in a written statement.

Senate Bill 138 would still encourage Coloradans to switch to lawn equipment powered by electricity by offering an income tax credit equal to 30% of the purchase price for new mowers and blowers bought in tax years 2023 through 2029. 

Businesses that use lawn equipment would be eligible for a rebate if they purchase electric alternatives.

Other changes to Senate Bill 138, which passed out of the Senate Transportation and Energy Committee on Tuesday evening by a 3-2, party-line vote, were made, but much of the legislation remains intact. 

The measure still includes provisions that would force many Colorado insurers to complete and make public a climate-risk assessment and that would place new greenhouse gas emissions reductions goals in state law. There are also parts of the legislation that aim to make carbon capture and sequestration easier and that seek to incentivize farmers and ranchers to help produce renewable energy.

Jesse Paul is a Denver-based political reporter and editor at The Colorado Sun, covering the state legislature, Congress and local politics. He is the author of The Unaffiliated newsletter and also occasionally fills in on breaking news coverage....