OPEI provides overview of major legislative issues

During OPEI’s introductory press conference at GIE+EXPO 2010, Kris Kiser, executive vice president of OPEI, gave a brief overview of some of the major legislative topics facing the industry.

“In California, legislation was introduced that reforms the California Air Resources Board [CARB] and their treatment of violations,” said Kiser. “It corrected the way California treated our manufacturers within the regulatory framework.

“California is fiscally challenged and the emissions agency was going after reputable manufacturers with some outrageous fines for paperwork violations, and ignoring offshore manufacturers that were bringing in non-compliant product,” Kiser added. “It became a genuine burden, both administratively and financially for the business. So OPEI along with 17 organizations in the state of California initiated legislation that moved through the California legislature and was signed by the governor this year. This dramatically reforms the way CARB assesses penalties and deals with manufacturers. It is a robust change in California — our largest market.”

Kiser also addressed ongoing efforts to deal with policy challenges related to managed lawn and landscapes. Organizations, environmentalists and others have been attacking the managed lawn as cosmetic and environmentally harmful. As an example, Kiser referenced the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) WaterSense program, which would limit turfgrass to 40 percent of the landscapeable area on a new home site.

“It’s a huge challenge for the business,” he said. “It’s a voluntary standard, but, much like EnergyStar, it could become part of everyday building.”

According to Kiser, OPEI fears that municipalities, water districts and even state administrations will incorporate this criteria and make it mandatory as the new home building standard. OPEI is working with its partners to deal with these challenges at a policy level.

One aspect of that effort is education. As part of that, Kiser announced that OPEI’s TurfMutt program is partnering with Discovery Education to provide nationwide education in tens of thousands of schools, teaching the benefits of stewardship of the managed landscape.

“We believe that our industry must present a face on stewardship,” said Kiser. “The outdoors begins at your back door or your front door. You can have a role in making sure that your lawn and landscape is an environmental asset, and not an environmental problem.”

Kiser also commented on the EPA’s decision to approve E-15 in the marketplace (it has been approved for 2007 model year and newer automobiles. E-15 is specifically NOT APPROVED for outdoor power equipment, the marine industry, ATVs, snowmobiles, utility vehicles, etc.

People base their fuel purchase decisions almost exclusively on price, said Kiser. E-15 is going to be cheaper. The incentive will be to buy the cheaper product. EPA is going to put a new label on the pump warning users not to put E15 in their outdoor power equipment.

“We don’t believe that’s adequate,” said Kiser.

According to Kiser, the challenge is that people are not likely to activate two pumps. They may fuel their car or truck with E-15, but then that is probably what is going in the fuel can used for filling their mower, snow thrower, etc. Most people will not put the E-15 pump up after filling their automobile, then go to a second pump to fill their fuel can. This is a huge challenge, because the machines are not designed for E-15, said Kiser. He added that E15 in outdoor power equipment leads to performance irregularities, increased heat, and unintentional clutch engagement.

“So our industry is now challenged,” he added. “It’s a complicated issue, so stay tuned.”

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