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CARB adopts In-Use Locomotive Regulation

27 April 2023

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) today passed a new rule aimed at reducing emissions from in-use locomotives when they operate within California. The adopted regulation follows the CARB proposal released in September 2022.

The In-Use Locomotive Regulation introduces three main requirements for rail operators:

During the Board meeting, CARB representatives stated that manufacturers are now offering hydrogen fuel cell and battery electric locomotives and zero emission trains. This statement reflects the availability of lightweight, hydrogen fuel-cell powered passenger trains, largely in Europe. On the other hand, there are currently no battery-electric or hydrogen fueled locomotives in commercial status of the size and power required for North American freight operations. Little discussion was held or information presented regarding the new infrastructure needed to support such new technology locomotives.

The regulation also includes record keeping and reporting requirements. The regulation is subject to technology assessment in 2017 and 2032.

The new rules offer flexibility to come into compliance, including alternatives to meet milestone deadlines and extensions for reasons that can include issues with available technologies or emergency situations. Funding programs are available, particularly for companies that are taking early action or those looking to go beyond the regulation’s requirements, CARB said.

CARB has repeatedly stated that the US EPA locomotive emission standards are not sufficiently protective for the air quality in California. Since CARB is preempted from regulating emissions from new locomotive engines, the agency focused on addressing emissions from “in-use” locomotives.

However, under the current EPA locomotive regulations, the preemption of states to regulate emissions from new locomotives extends for a period equal to 133 percent of the useful life of a new locomotive or new engine used in a locomotive—even after the locomotive or engine was placed into service and ceased to be “new”. This existing regulatory language appears inconsistent with some provisions of the CARB in-use locomotive rule.

In order to enable the CARB in-use locomotive regulation, the EPA has proposed to remove the explicit period of preemption from the federal locomotive regulations. These proposed changes are outlined in the recently proposed Phase 3 GHG emission standards for heavy-duty vehicles (88 FR 26092-26096).

Source: CARB