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EPA proposes first-ever standards to protect against pollution from locomotives

31 January 1997

The US Environmental Protection Agency today proposed the first standards to protect human health from air pollution from diesel locomotives.

Air pollution from diesel locomotives includes nitrogen oxide, which causes smog, and particulate matters, or soot. A typical locomotive can produce as much nitrogen oxide in one year as 3,000 passenger cars. Smog causes serious respiratory illness and exacerbates asthma attacks in children. Particulate matter has been associated with cancer and premature death.

"This proposal is an important step in protecting public health and the environment of American communities," said EPA Administrator Carol M. Browner. "The new standard is especially good news for people living in cities that are railway hubs, where pollution from train engines can account for about eight percent of total nitrogen oxide emissions."

"We especially want to thank the locomotive and railway industry for their help and cooperation," Browner said. "Today's proposal will help states comply with the ozone and particulate matter air quality standards that protect human health from risks posed by smog and particulate matter soot."

The new standards would be phased in beginning Jan. 1, 2000, when the first level must be met for nitrogen oxide in new locomotive engines. The next reductions would become effective in 2005 with additional nitrogen oxide reductions, plus particulate matter reductions. The standards would apply to new engines as well as many older engines each time they are "re-manufactured," or given major repair, throughout their service life, until they are scrapped.

When fully phased in the standards will reduce nitrogen oxide emissions by two thirds or 600,000 tons annually. Locomotive-produced hydrocarbons (another contributor to smog) and particulate matter would be cut in half—reduced by 15,000 tons and 10,000 tons respectively.

Before establishing the exhaust emission reduction program EPA studied characteristics unique to locomotives that make them quite different from other mobile sources. Typically, a locomotive will be in service for 40 or more years before it is scrapped. During that life-span an engine may be remanufactured several times to bring it back to "as new" condition. They also travel up to a million miles between remanufactures. Some of the same models are manufactured for many years, with changes and improvements made continually over time. The long service life makes fleet turnover occur less frequently than any other category of mobile sources. These unusual factors make it important to include existing locomotives in the regulations according to the agency.

Notice of today's proposed standards will appear in the Federal Register soon. The agency will accept public comment for 30 days from the date of publication in the Federal Register. In addition, the proposed rule is available electronically via the EPA Internet server [343K PDF] via the dial-up modem on the Technology Transfer-Network(TTN), at 919-541-5742.

Source: US EPA