California Seeks Tighter Emissions Rules For Locomotives

California Air Resources Board (CARB) chair Mary D. Nichols has requested that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 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 rail yards.

The purpose of this request, CARB said, is to accelerate the movement to zero- or near-zero emission locomotives.

CARB said 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 EPA Tier 4 levels. Newly manufactured locomotives would have some zero-emission mile capability, the announcement said.

“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 said 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 said 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 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 rail yards.

But CARB said 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.

The full petition to the U.S. EPA is at:


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