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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

California panel seeks stricter locomotive emissions standards

Mary Nicols
Photo – California Air Resources Board


California Air Resources Board (CARB) Chair Mary Nichols has asked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to adopt stricter locomotive emissions standards to improve air quality in and around the nation's rail yards.

In a formal petition submitted for EPA rulemaking to reduce locomotive emissions, Nichols asked the agency to accelerate the movement to zero- or near-zero emission locomotives, according to a CARB press release.

Proposed emission standards would cut toxic and smog-causing emissions by 85 percent for diesel particulate matter and 66 percent for oxides of nitrogen below current Tier 4 levels. Newly manufactured locomotives would have some zero-emission mile capability.

"Reducing locomotive-related emissions and the resulting air toxic hot spots near rail yards is a high priority for disadvantaged communities within California and around the nation," Nichols said. "A new generation of locomotives will also, once in operation, offer fuel savings to the railroad industry."

Requiring the transition to the cleanest, most efficient locomotives also will generate new jobs in the clean technology sector, which will help the United States compete in the global marketplace where demand is growing for cleaner, low-emissions trains abroad, Nichols said.

In CARB's petition, Nichols noted recent studies have found that there are significant diesel exposure disparities by race and income among residents living in close proximity to most of the major rail yards in California.

Nichols acknowledged many steps already have been taken to reduce locomotive emissions from the nation's freight delivery network. National locomotive emissions and diesel fuel standards, CARB agreements with railroads, California emission standards for drayage trucks and cargo equipment, and private and public investments in cleaner equipment are reducing overall emissions and health risk near our major rail yards.

However, CARB officials believe new action by the EPA is necessary to improve conditions on the ground for overburdened communities, Nichols said.

To further reduce locomotive emissions, CARB is requesting the development of updated emission standards, including standards for newly manufactured locomotives, and standards for reduced emissions when locomotive engines are remanufactured.