Pressure cooker

Features - Legislation

As the new president of OPEI, Kris Kiser fights for equipment issues on multiple fronts.

October 14, 2011
Chuck Bowen

Facing ever-increasing pressure from government and consumer groups to cut down on emissions and increase safety and recycling programs – as well as efforts by the EPA to limit the amount of turf in landscapes, and changing ethanol fuel standards – the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute has named Kris Kiser president and CEO.

"We're entering into a genuine challenge. EPA has declared war on the managed landscape," Kiser says from his office in suburban Washington. "They're trying to get away from the managed landscape."

Kiser, who most recently was the association's executive vice president and COO, succeeds Bill Harley, who is retiring.

"The last 12 years with OPEI have been a remarkable time. I leave with great pride in our collective accomplishments and the certainty that my successor, Kris Kiser, will not only build on those accomplishments, but also lead the organization to new heights. I look forward to new and interesting experiences and challenges ahead," Harley said in a release.

"Kris has a tremendous amount of passion for the outdoor products industry, including its challenges, and has earned a reputation as a trusted and respected leader," said Jean Hlay, OPEI board president and president and COO of Cleveland-based MTD Products, in a release. "Kris will continue to further enhance OPEI's leadership position."

OPEI hired Kiser four years ago as its first-ever legislative liaison. He brought with him two decades of legislative and lobbying experience, including most recently a stint with the Alliance of Automotive Manufacturers. For many years, OPEI stayed out of politics. But after EPA started regulating equipment emissions in 1997, the association realized it couldn't sit on the sidelines anymore.

"There wasn't a belief that they had to get involved. What they've learned is, you can't not be involved," Kiser says. "Government is in our lives, and to participate or effect change, you have to be involved in the process."

As he takes the reins, Kiser says OPEI is working on many fronts. "The key for me is to be relevant. I'm not looking to be right or wrong," he says. "I'm looking to be relevant."

  • Standards. OPEI helps develop and write many of the safety standards that apply to the equipment landscapers buy. Kiser plans to bolster the group's reach in this area by hiring Jerry Coons, a former Husqvarna plant manager, as its new vice president of industry affairs, to oversee the standards division. Kiser also wants to develop a standard for landscape installations in the commercial building sector.
  • Fuel. Earlier this year, EPA released its labels for new ethanol fuel pumps. OPEI joined with other groups to sue the agency, and is working to educate contractors and homeowners about the impact E-15 can have on small engines.
  • Equipment recycling. In parts of Canada, manufacturers must have detailed plans on how they will remove outdated equipment from the market before it is sold. Health Canada has also set up a new consumer protection agency that will review equipment safety.

Why it matters.
So what does this mean to the average landscaper? As equipment manufactures face increasing challenges on regulatory fronts, the cost of mowers, trimmers and edgers is going to go up.

"There's a growing sense in Congress that EPA is an out of control agency, that it's a jobs killer, that current regulatory efforts … are strangling manufacturers," Kiser says.

"If Republicans take control (in 2012) you might see some efforts to roll back the regulatory authority of that agency," he says. "And it might carry over to other agencies."


The author is editor and associate publisher of Lawn & Landscape. He can be reached at

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