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ARB acts to further reduce emissions at high-risk railyards
New commitments on diesel soot set stringent limits on total emissions, and cut health risks in half
SACRAMENTO - The Air Resources Board today acted on a staff proposal to further slash toxic diesel emissions originating from four of the highest polluting railyards in the state.
The four railyards, all located in Southern California, are BNSF San Bernardino, BNSF Hobart and UP Commerce (City of Commerce) and the UP Intermodal Container Transfer Facility/Dolores (Long Beach). Over the past five years, ARB and federal regulations and agreements have resulted in cutting emissions at the four railyards in half. The Board’s actions today will build on those reductions.
“Once again the Air Resources Board is leading the nation, taking aggressive action to characterize and reduce the health risks from diesel engines used in freight operations throughout our state,” said ARB Chairman Mary D. Nichols. "We recognize the importance of rail in moving freight throughout California and in most of the nation, while pushing the railroads to take responsibility for the disproportionate pollution their operations cause to the communities adjacent to their facilities.”
Diesel exhaust contains a variety of harmful gases and more than 40 other known cancer-causing compounds. In 1998, California identified diesel particulate matter as a toxic air contaminant based on its potential to cause cancer, premature death and other significant health problems.
The Board also indicated its intent to work with other agencies, local governments, stakeholders, and the railroads to identify and implement additional actions that can be taken both inside and outside the railyards.
The Board directed ARB staff to consider several additional items related to the proposed commitments by the railroads. These include: responding in writing to environmental issues raised by the public; considering the use of an independent third party auditor to assess implementation progress; focusing efforts on the development of new locomotives and zero and near-zero emissions technology; allowing affected communities to enforce ARB’s commitments if they are not carried out; ensuring data can be easily accessed and delivered in a user-friendly format; and considering the addition of a commitment by the railroads against any backsliding on progress to date.
The commitments the Board endorsed build on the existing regulations and agreements cutting emissions in 2015 by another 10 to 20 percent, and 2020 emissions by another 30 to 50 percent. Because of a hard cap placed on emissions under the commitments, total emissions at the San Bernardino railyard, for example, will be 3.4 tons a year instead of seven tons in 2020. Health risks will similarly be reduced an additional 50 percent under the commitments.
As a result of a previous agreement with the railroads in 1998, Southern California is now home to the cleanest fleet of locomotives in the nation. A later agreement with the railroads in 2005, along with other steps ARB took, succeeded in slashing emissions by half over the past five years.
The Board’s actions today establish a process that continues this approach, effectively reducing maximum individual cancer risks from a projected rate of 2,500 per million for those living closest to the railyards to 400 per million in 2020. A forward-looking provision in the commitment requires that potential new cost-effective technologies that could further reduce health risks at these four railyards in the future be assessed in 2018.
The commitments were crafted in consultation with BNSF Railway and Union Pacific Railroad, as well as other stakeholders, and focus on the four railyards with the highest emissions and risk to nearby communities.
Combined, the four railyards handle about 75 percent of containers and rail-related truck traffic in California. In 2005, each of these four railyards generated on average about 20 tons per year of diesel soot. By 2020, and irrespective of future rates of growth, the combination of existing measures and the new agreement reduces average diesel emissions per yard to about 3 tons per year.
For the four high-risk railyards, these commitments will:
- Establish a hard cap that requires emissions to decline according to a specified schedule;
- Require a 10 - 20 percent larger reduction than would occur by 2015 if only existing measures were used, and about a 30 50 percent larger reduction by 2020;
- Ensure that emissions will continue to decline regardless of growth or increased activity;
- Establish a schedule for ARB to routinely prepare estimates of future health risks at each high priority railyard through 2020;
- Provide for independent ARB verification of railyard activity to ensure that all obligations are met;
- Lead to ARB installation and operation of a new air quality monitor in the community near the San Bernardino railyard and another near the Commerce/Hobart railyards;
- Trigger specific and prompt actions by ARB if the emission reductions are not achieved; and,
- Create a process for ongoing public participation for the duration of the commitments.
The ARB’s list of proposed railyard commitments complements ARB’s extensive work to reduce diesel emissions from a wide variety of sources that affect railyard-adjacent communities. More information about the commitments can be found on ARB’s website at:
The ARB has already adopted measures for port trucks, cargo handling equipment, transport refrigeration units and cleaner fuel for intrastate and interstate locomotives that are already showing major air quality benefits near railyards and throughout the state. These and other regulations are the outcome of the Board’s adoption in 2000 of the landmark Diesel Risk Reduction Plan, an ambitious effort to reduce toxic emissions from diesel sources throughout the state.
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.