California Adopts Rules to Cut Train Emissions, First in US

Jill McLaughlin
By Jill McLaughlin
April 29, 2023Californiashare

California adopted new rules on April 27 to reduce emissions created by locomotives, becoming the first state to do so in the United States.

“Locomotives are a key part of California’s transportation network, and it’s time that they are part of the solution to tackle pollution and clean our air,” California Air Resources Board (CARB) Chair Liane Randolph said in a release.

Under the new rules passed by the board, train operators will now be required to fund a spending account to offset emissions. Companies will then be able to use the funds to operate cleaner train technologies in the state.

Trains will also only be allowed to idle for 30 minutes starting in 2024. All locomotive operators will also be required to submit annual emissions reports to the state starting next year.

Beginning Jan. 1, 2047, all locomotives operating in California and rail equipment will be required to be zero-emission. Historic railroad operators that meet specific requirements may receive state permission to be exempt from the rules.

Officials of Union Pacific, the largest railroad operator in North America, said California is not ready for the new rules. The company operates commuter trains and freight trains on over 3,300 miles of track in California.

“Union Pacific is deeply disappointed in the California Air Resources Board’s decision to impose burdensome regulations on the railroad industry which fail to take into consideration that the technology and infrastructure needed for success do not exist,” spokesman Mike Jaixen told The Epoch Times in an email. “We are committed to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050 and are making significant strides in addressing criteria pollutants.”

The company has spent more than $1.4 billion on transportation infrastructure projects in the state since 2018. It is also investing $1 billion to modernize locomotives. They are also testing biofuel blends to lower carbon and criteria pollutant emissions, according to Jaixen.

“We are dedicated to ongoing collaboration to find balanced solutions,” he said.

Californians for Electric Rail, an advocacy group promoting electric railroads, was positive about the adoption, according to its Twitter page.

According to CARB’s estimates, emissions from one train are worse than 400 heavy-duty trucks.

A CARB analysis estimates the state will see $32 billion in health savings by preventing 3,200 premature deaths and 1,500 emergency room visits and hospitalizations if California trains are switched to electric or zero-emission systems. Cancer risk is also expected to be reduced by 90 percent.

However, these numbers are “subject to uncertainty,” according to the report.

New Truck Rules

The board also approved the country’s most aggressive policy on April 27 to phase out the sales of medium and heavy-duty combustion trucks by 2036.

The Advanced Clean Fleets rule will pave the way for all fleets in the state to be zero-emission by 2045. The rule mandates drayage trucks, or big rigs, to be zero-emission by 2035, garbage trucks and local buses by 2039, and all other vehicles by 2035.

Several industry organizations, truck drivers, and residents are concerned about the speedy transition, including groups that use the busy Los Angeles and Long Beach ports to pick up overseas goods and deliver them across the country.

American Trucking Associations argued that zero-emission models are more costly and can move fewer goods.

“Today, an unelected Board in California voted to force trucking companies to buy zero-emission trucks,” the association’s President Chris Spear said in a statement. “… [W]hat they have learned so far is they are significantly more expensive, charging and refueling infrastructure is nonexistent, and [they] are not necessarily a one-for-one replacement—meaning more trucks will be needed on California roads to move the same amount of freight.”

These new rules add to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s aggressive plan to transition the state away from fossil fuels and into renewable energy.

Newsom, a Democrat, has pushed for accelerated climate measures and a transition to zero-emission transportation in recent years. He signed an executive order in 2020 (pdf) calling for new heavy-duty vehicles sold in California to be zero-emission by 2045.

The governor’s executive order also aims for all new passenger cars and trucks sold in California to meet the same standard by 2035, which was already approved by CARB last year, making California one of the first in the world to impose such a restriction.

From The Epoch Times

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