Release 09-89
September 25, 2009

    Karen Caesar
(626) 575-6728
ARB seeks further reductions of diesel emissions at state rail yards
Recommended actions could cut toxic soot by 85 percent or more

DIAMOND BAR - The Air Resources Board today directed its staff to take steps to provide further locomotive and rail yard emission reductions beyond those achieved by existing U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and state regulations and agreements.

While current state and federal measures are on target to reduce toxic diesel locomotive emissions 65 percent or more by 2020, additional measures recommended by ARB staff would ultimately provide up to 85 percent or greater emissions reductions within the rail yards over the same period, which translates to cleaner air for nearby residential neighborhoods as well.

"While we are pleased to have already reduced diesel emissions at the rail yards, it's not enough," said ARB Chairman Mary Nichols. "Increased leadership from U.S. EPA and the railroads, along with funding to address California's needs, would signal a clean-air commitment that must be made to protect those who live and work near rail yards."

Out of 37 options evaluated in a technical report completed earlier this year, staff is now proposing a top set of recommendations which call for replacing existing switch and medium horsepower locomotives with cleaner locomotives; retrofitting these locomotives with particulate matter and oxides of nitrogen (NOx) after-treatment devices, and accelerating the introduction of cleaner new Tier 4 interstate line-haul locomotives to operate in California and other western states.

Implementation dates would be staggered to coincide with the development and commercial production of these advanced technologies. Once all steps are taken, Californians can expect to see a reduction of about 69 tons per day of NOx (a key ingredient of smog), and a reduction of about three tons per day of toxic diesel soot.

The measures primarily affect freight locomotives operated by Union Pacific and BNSF Railway, although locomotives used in passenger service are also included. Union Pacific operates in 23 states west of Chicago, while BNSF Railway is present in 28. Technological improvements and emissions reductions will benefit not only Californians, but also millions of residents across the western U.S. who are impacted by long distance line-haul locomotives.

The U.S. EPA estimates the normal fleet turnover rate for a line-haul locomotive can take 30 years or more. For this reason, ARB staff are proposing accelerated introduction of the cleanest new line-haul locomotives that operate in California and other western states within 10 years.

ARB plans on forming a coalition of stakeholders to seek incentive funding for implementation of the measures. The first four measures are expected to cost about $1 billion. Costs for the accelerated replacement of line-haul locomotives will be larger due to the increased number of interstate locomotives to be replaced to ensure a clean fleet in California. Funding is expected to come from railroads and state and federal governments.

California leads the nation with the most extensive efforts to reduce locomotive and rail yard emissions. ARB completed 18 major rail yard health risk assessments that showed increased risk for those who live and work near these facilities. Through a combination of state and federal regulations, incentive funding, binding agreements and voluntary actions by the railroad companies, California will see dramatic reductions in their airborne emissions, between 50-80 percent, depending on the individual rail yard, as early as 2015. Because of significant mitigation measures put in place over the last two years, risk levels around major rail yards have already been reduced by about 37 percent.
California's key locomotive and rail yard air pollution control measures and strategies include:

Diesel exhaust contains a variety of harmful gases and over 40 other known cancer-causing substances. In 2000, the ARB established California's Diesel Risk Reduction Plan, which aims to reduce diesel emissions to 85 percent below 2000 levels by 2020. Other sources of diesel particulate matter such as big rig trucks, transit buses, trash trucks, cargo-handling equipment and ship auxiliary engines have already been addressed through regulations, along with diesel fuel.

NOx helps create ground-level ozone, or smog. Smog can damage lungs, cause coughing and chest tightness, and worsen asthma symptoms while also affecting crop yields. Both pollutants are particularly harmful to children, the elderly and those who have preexisting health problems.

The Air Resources Board is a department of the California Environmental Protection Agency. ARB's mission is to promote and protect public health, welfare, and ecological resources through effective reduction of air pollutants while recognizing and considering effects on the economy. The ARB oversees all air pollution control efforts in California to attain and maintain health based air quality standards.

The energy challenge facing California is real. Every Californian needs to take immediate action to reduce energy consumption. For a list of simple ways you can reduce demand and cut your energy cost, see our web site at