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EPA study approves rules of small-engine pollution

WASHINGTON -- The Environmental Protection Agency yesterday cleared the way for regulations to limit pollution from lawn mowers, jet skis, and similar small machines.

Devices that clean the engines' emissions do not pose a safety problem, the EPA said. Without new pollution controls, engines under 50 horsepower would account for 18 percent of smog-forming emissions from mobile sources by 2020, the agency has estimated.

Opposition from Senator Kit Bond, Republican of Missouri, whose home state has two factories owned by lawn mower engine maker Briggs & Stratton Corp., has delayed rules to regulate small-engine pollution.

After first trying to bar California from implementing its own small-engine rules, Bond last year insisted on a study of whether adding pollution-reducing catalytic converters to small engines could create fire risks.

The EPA study released yesterday concluded there are no such risks and said there can even be safety benefits from adding catalytic converters.

The conclusion means EPA can move forward to issue nationwide regulations for pollution from small engines. The agency also can grant California the waiver it is seeking to implement its own small-engine pollution rules.

EPA spokesman John Millett said the agency should be able to take both steps by the end of the year.

Agency investigations indicate the pollution standards can be implemented ''without an incremental increase in the risk of fire or burn to the consumer" and can even lead to ''an incremental decrease in such risk," the study said.

''EPA's thorough safety study shows that not only will California's proposed small engine regulations significantly improve our air quality, but they also present no safety concerns whatsoever for consumers and in fact may improve the safety of lawnmowers and other small engines," said Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, who has tangled with Bond over the issue for nearly three years.

Patricia Hanz, a spokeswoman for Briggs & Stratton in Milwaukee, called the EPA study ''neither comprehensive nor complete" and said the company was waiting for results from a safety study that includes participation by the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute, an industry trade association.

Briggs & Stratton officials have said that redesigning their engines to comply with tougher regulations would be so costly they might have to move production overseas.

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