UNITED STATES NEWS

California to vote on ambitious locomotive emission rule

Apr 27, 2023, 2:38 AM

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Every day, locomotives pull rail cars filled with food, lumber, oil and other products through railyards near neighborhoods in Oakland, Commerce, San Bernadino and other California cities.

They run on diesel, a more powerful fuel than gasoline, and burning all that diesel produces pollution that is harmful for people who live nearby, as well as greenhouse gases. California’s Air Resources Board is trying to change that.

The agency votes Thursday on a rule that would ban the use of locomotive engines more than 23 years old by 2030 and increase the use of zero-emissions technology to transport freight from ports and throughout railyards. The rule would also ban locomotives in the state from idling longer than 30 minutes if they are equipped with an automatic shutoff.

The rule would be the most ambitious of its kind in the country.

“It’s going to be groundbreaking, and it’s going to address the diesel crisis that’s been poisoning communities near railyards for literal decades,” said Yasmine Agelidis, a lawyer with environmental nonprofit Earthjustice.

Diesel exhaust is a health hazard. According to California regulators, diesel emissions are responsible for some 70% of Californians’ cancer risk from toxic air pollution. The rule would curb emissions on a class of engines that annually release more than 640 tons of tiny pollutants that can enter deep into a person’s lungs and worsen asthma and nearly 30,000 tons of smog-forming emissions known as nitrogen oxides. The rule would also drastically cut greenhouse gas emissions from locomotives, by an amount akin to removing all heavy-duty trucks from the state by 2030.

For activists and residents who’ve 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’s a neighborhood near the twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach that is “surrounded by pollution” from trains, trucks and industry.

“We support rail, but we support rail if they’re doing all their best to mitigate their emissions,” Andasan said.

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 that burdens communities.

But some say it’s too soon to implement the locomotive standards. Wayne Winegarden, a senior fellow at the Pacific Research Institute, said the rule would be expensive for rail companies, and increased costs will mean higher prices for many goods that move by rail.

The Association of American Railroads said in a statement “there is no clear path to zero emissions locomotives.”

“Mandating that result ignores the complexity and interconnected nature of railroad operations and the reality of where zero emission locomotive technology and the supporting infrastructure stand,” the group wrote.

Freight railways are an efficient means to transport the roughly 1.6 billion tons of goods nationwide across nearly 140,000 miles, much cleaner than if those goods were trucked, it said.

Kristen South, a spokesperson for Union Pacific, said in a statement the rail company wants regulators to continue to work 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 cut greenhouse gas emissions in part by spending $1 billion to modernize locomotives and testing out engines powered by electric batteries, South wrote.

California would have to get authorization from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to move forward with the rule, which would be stricter than federal standards. Other states can sign on to try to adopt the California rule if it gets the OK from the Biden administration.

The EPA recently approved California rules aimed at reducing emissions from heavy trucks. The rules will 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 city in the San Francisco Bay Area, along the BNSF Railway. She estimates that her home is just 20 feet from the tracks. She said it’s not uncommon for diesel fumes to fill her house, resulting in a “thick, acrid, dirty smell.”

“Nobody wants to live next to a railroad track,” Swillinger said. “You move next to a railroad track because you don’t have other options.”

___

Sophie Austin is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues. Follow Austin on Twitter: @sophieadanna

United States News

FILE - Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin speaks during a Pentagon press briefing at the Pentagon on Fe...

Associated Press

Defense chief on the defensive: Lawmakers to confront Austin on secret hospital stay

WASHINGTON (AP) — Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will face Congress publicly for the first time Thursday to explain his failure to quickly notify the president and other senior leaders about his hospitalization last month for complications from prostate cancer surgery. He is expected to hear some sharp questions and criticism from members of the House […]

6 minutes ago

Traffic enter and leave mid-town Manhattan via the Queensboro Bridge, Thursday, Feb. 8, 2024, in Ne...

Associated Press

NYC’s plan to ease gridlock and pump billions into mass transit? A $15 toll for Manhattan drivers

NEW YORK (AP) — Between bridge and tunnel tolls, parking fees and the ever-present risk of getting a traffic ticket, it can already cost a mint to drive into Manhattan. Is forking over another $15 for the privilege of driving into the most traffic-choked parts of the island enough to finally get more people out […]

14 minutes ago

FILE - Firefighters extinguish a fire after a Russian attack on a residential neighborhood in Khark...

Associated Press

US adults fracture along party lines in support for Ukraine military funding, AP-NORC poll finds

WASHINGTON (AP) — As Russia makes battlefield advances and Ukrainian soldiers run short on ammunition, U.S. adults have become fractured along party lines in their support for sending military aid to Kyiv, according to a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. Democrats are more likely to say the U.S. government […]

21 minutes ago

Associated Press

Missing teen with autism found in New Mexico, about 200 miles away from his Arizona home

DEMING, N.M. (AP) — A missing teen with autism has been found in New Mexico — about 200 miles away from his home in southern Arizona, according to New Mexico State Police. The 13-year-old turned up at a Walmart in Deming on Tuesday after going missing the night before from his family’s home in Tucson. […]

3 hours ago

Associated Press

UN appeals for $674 million as gang violence in Haiti escalates with killings and sexual violence

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Indiscriminate violence in Haiti is escalating — especially in the capital and surrounding region — with armed gangs carrying out killings and acts of sexual violence, the United Nations humanitarian coordinator in the conflict-wracked Caribbean nation said Wednesday. Ulrika Richardson told U.N. reporters in a virtual press conference from the Haitian […]

4 hours ago

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul holds up a phone that displays a map of illegal cannabis stores as entre...

Associated Press

Struggling to stop illegal cannabis stores, New York governor asks online sites to hide them

NEW YORK (AP) — After failing to wipe illegal cannabis dispensaries off the map, New York is asking online sites to hide them. Since the state legalized marijuana in 2021, unlicensed pot shops have proliferated across New York City, with limited pushback from authorities. On Tuesday, Gov. Kathy Hochul called on online map and social […]

4 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Collins Comfort Masters

Here’s 1 way to ensure your family is drinking safe water

Water is maybe one of the most important resources in our lives, and especially if you have kids, you want them to have access to safe water.

...

Fiesta Bowl Foundation

The 51st annual Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade is excitingly upon us

The 51st annual Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade presented by Lerner & Rowe is upon us! The attraction honors Arizona and the history of the game.

(KTAR News Graphic)...

Boys & Girls Clubs

KTAR launches online holiday auction benefitting Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley

KTAR is teaming up with The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley for a holiday auction benefitting thousands of Valley kids.

California to vote on ambitious locomotive emission rule