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Rail News: Short Lines & Regionals

ASLRRA upset with California's new locomotive emissions reg

Chuck Baker
Photo – ASLRRA


American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association (ASLRRA) officials this week expressed dismay at the California Air Resources Board's (CARB) decision to implement a regulation that calls for fees charged to railroads that use locomotives that are not Tier 4 or zero-emission units.

The CARB voted last week to implement the rule, which is designed to help speed up adoption of advanced cleaner technologies for all locomotive operations, according to the board's website. The goal also is in keeping with California Gov. Gavin Newsom's executive order calling for all off-road vehicles and equipment operations to be zero-emission by 2035.

For the past 20 years, CARB has reached agreements with the Class Is to reduce locomotive emissions. In November 2022, the board sought public input on a proposed regulation for in-use locomotives, which would require fees to be collected from railroads for every hour of operation that's not a zero-emissions unit.

The payments would be segregated into spending accounts for the purchase of zero-emissions locomotives to replace the older ones, according to ASLRRA.

The association contends that the regulation would be unaffordable for smaller railroads.

The rule mandates "an incredibly abrupt, dramatic, unrealistic and counterproductive forced shift of all locomotives in California, including all small business short line locomotives" to the new units, ASLRRA officials said in a press release.

"While the spirit behind this rule is consistent with short lines’ environmental commitment, the rule itself is impractical, unworkable and simply not feasible for most short lines," said ASLRRA President Chuck Baker. "In addition, this rulemaking does not acknowledge the impact of the elimination of some short line rail service to Californians."

Short lines throughout the country safely operate locomotives that are 40 years or older. The cost to acquire a multimillion-dollar asset like a Tier 4 locomotive is out of reach for many of those small businesses, the association officials said. Some short lines will be forced out of business by the new rule, Baker added.

"We will consider all options as we look to save threatened short lines in California, seeking a win-win-win result for the environment, short lines and our shippers, not a lose-lose-lose result as this rule would provide,” Baker said.

To learn more about the CARB regulation and its impact on short lines, read this RailPrime article.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 5/3/2023