California sets emission rules for trains : NPR
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California on Thursday approved a nation-first, ambitious rule limiting rail pollution to aggressively cut greenhouse gas emissions in the state’s latest move to establish itself as a global leader. in the fight against climate change.
The rule will ban locomotive engines that are more than 23 years old by 2030 and increase the use of zero-emissions technology to transport goods through ports and along railway tracks. It also prohibits locomotives in the state from running longer than 30 minutes if they are equipped with an automatic shutdown.
“It’s time to start the next step of transformation, with rail,” said Davina Hurt, a member of the California Air Resources Board.
The standards also reduce chemicals that contribute to smog. They can improve air quality near railways and ports.
But some say it’s too early for locomotive standards. Wayne Winegarden, a senior fellow at the Pacific Research Institute, said the rule would be expensive for rail companies, and increased costs would mean higher prices for many goods moving by rail.
The rail industry says the technology isn’t there yet
The Association of American Railroads said in a statement “there is no clear path to zero-emissions locomotives.”
“Mandating that outcome ignores the complexity and interconnected nature of railroad operations and the reality of where zero-emission locomotive technology and the supporting infrastructure, ” wrote the group.
Freight trains are an efficient way to transport roughly 1.6 billion tons of goods across the nation over nearly 140,000 miles (225,308 kilometers), much cleaner than if those goods were trucked, he said.
The transport sector contributed the largest share of greenhouse gas emissions nationwide in 2020, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. But the train only accounts for about 2% of those emissions.
Kristen South, spokesperson for Union Pacific, said in a statement that the railway company wants the regulators to continue working with them to come up with a more “balanced” solution that is not too ambitious for the current technology and infrastructure.
Union Pacific is working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in part by spending $1 billion to modernize locomotives and test engines powered by electric batteries, South wrote.
“We need the strongest and most protective regulation of locomotives in use because we know” decisions by the California Air Resources Board have an impact across the United States, not just in the state, Cecilia said. Garibay, project coordinator with the 50 Moving Forward members. Network based at Occidental College.
The proposed rules would require federal support
The standards would need approval from the Biden administration to move forward. They follow rules approved by the Environmental Protection Agency to reduce emissions from heavy trucks.
Locomotives pull rail cars filled with food, lumber, oil and other products through trains near neighborhoods in Oakland, Commerce, San Bernardino and other California cities.
They run on diesel, a fuel more powerful than gasoline, which produces greenhouse gases and pollution that is harmful to nearby residents.
Other states could sign on to try to adopt the California rule if it gets the OK from the Biden administration.
The rule is the most ambitious of its kind in the country.
“The locomotive rule has the power to change the course of history for Californians who have suffered from rail pollution for far too long, and it is my hope that our federal regulators will follow suit. leadership of California,” said Yasmine Agelidis, an attorney with environmental nonprofit Earthjustice. , in a statement.
Diesel exhaust is a health hazard. According to California regulators, diesel emissions are responsible for about 70% of Californians’ cancer risk from toxic air pollution. The rule cuts emissions on a class of engines that annually release more than 640 tons of tiny pollutants that can get deep into a person’s lungs and worsen asthma, and release nearly 30,000 tons of ‘ smog-forming emissions known as nitrogen oxides. The rule would drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions from locomotives, by an amount similar to removing all heavy-duty trucks from the state by 2030.
It’s important to tackle emissions from a sector that often burdens low-income residents and communities of color, and that has plans to expand passenger rail, said the President of the Board of Air Resources Liane M. Randolph.
Rail companies can participate in state-run incentive programs to ease the cost of transitioning to zero-emission locomotives, the agency said.
California has already begun making major emissions reductions in other areas. The state has approved a transition to zero-emission cars and a roadmap to achieve carbon neutrality, which means it will remove as much carbon emissions as it emits, by 2045.
For activists and residents who have lived in areas affected by heavy rail pollution, the fight for cleaner trains is decades in the making.
Jan Victor Andasan, an activist with East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice, grew up in West Long Beach and now organizes residents there. It is a neighborhood near the twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach that is “surrounded by pollution” from trains, trucks and industry.
“We support the railways, but we support the railway if they are doing their best to mitigate their emissions,” Andasan said.
Residents shared stories Thursday of children living near railroads who had to share inhalers to relieve asthma symptoms and families who took extreme measures to rid their homes of diesel fumes.
Some activists would like California to go further, for example, to limit locomotive idling to 15 minutes. They are also concerned that increased demand from online shopping is causing more rail traffic to burden communities.
The EPA recently approved California rules that require zero-emission trucks, depending on the type, to make up between 40% and 75% of sales by 2035.
Heidi Swillinger lives in a mobile home park in San Pablo, a small town in the San Francisco Bay Area, along the BNSF Railroad. She estimates that her house is only 20 feet (6 meters) from the tracks. She said that it is not uncommon for diesel fumes to fill her house, and this results in a “thick, ugly, dirty” smell.
“Nobody wants to live next to a railroad track,” Swillinger said. “You walk next to a train track because you have no other options.”