California top air quality agency pushes for stricter locomotive emissions standards

April 14, 2017. California Air Resources Board (CARB) chair Mary D. Nichols requested the U.S. EPA take action to adopt more stringent emission standards for locomotives, saying that the move is needed to clean up the air in “high-risk” communities in and around the nation’s railyards. The purpose of this request is to accelerate the movement to zero- or near-zero emission locomotives. Proposed emission standards would cut toxic and smog-causing emissions by 85% for diesel particulate matter (PM) and 66% for oxides of nitrogen (NOx) 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 railyards 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.

   Nichols also noted that requiring the transition to the cleanest, most efficient locomotives will generate new clean tech and industrial jobs, and provide a boost for the United States to compete in the global marketplace to meet the growing demand for cleaner, low-emission trains abroad.

   In the formal petition submitted for U.S. EPA Rulemaking to reduce locomotive emissions, Nichols made it clear that 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 railyards in California.

   Nichols acknowledges that many steps have already been taken to clean up emissions from the nation’s complex 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 railyards. But CARB believes that more can be accomplished, and that to deliver on our collective responsibility to improve conditions on the ground for overburdened communities, new action by U.S. EPA to require a transition to zero and near-zero emission locomotives is necessary.

   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.

   The proposed standards recognize advancements in technology that support zero-emission rail operation in impacted communities while also providing nationwide fuel savings for the railroads.

   Nichols cites U.S. EPA’s long history of working for environmentally burdened and economically disadvantaged communities, and urges the federal agency to exercise its authority to adopt more stringent locomotive emission standards to address issues affecting public health and welfare, and so that all states can meet federal air quality standards and climate goals. California is requesting that U.S. EPA respond by Summer, 2017.