California Could Phase Out Diesel Locomotives

familiar with the grim reality of living with this health hazard.' Diesel locomotive pollution is a health hazard, especially for communities near railyards.

Joanna Marsh,


California Air Resources Board

This week, the government is ready to act.

On a proposed regulation which seeks to reduce the emissions of locomotives in the state through the phase-out of diesel locomotives, and by requiring zero emission locomotives within a specified timeframe.

In the absence of federal actions to address harmful emission from locomotives, CARB develops regulatory concepts to reduce toxic air contaminants and greenhouse gasses for locomotives currently in use.

CARB's website says

These concepts will be implemented across the state and give railroads an opportunity to address long-standing concerns about environmental justice and regional pollution with communities located near railyards. The regulatory concepts are designed to speed up the adoption of cleaner, advanced technologies by all locomotive operators.

The proposed regulation would apply to passenger and freight rail operations, including travel to rail yards, seaports and other locations.

The following are included in the list


In 2024

The amount of emissions produced by locomotives would be used to fund the purchase or upgrade of locomotives.

The idle time of locomotives fitted with automatic shutoff devices is limited to 30 minutes. This does not apply to certain situations, such as the need to maintain air brake pressure or to provide heat or cooling for the locomotive cabin.

The state will require locomotives to register annually with CARB. This includes reporting on the activity of locomotives, their emission levels, and idling.

In 2030,

California only allows locomotives that are 23 years or younger.

All switch, industrial, and passenger locomotives built after 2030 would have to be operated in a ZE configuration. This means they must either qualify as a ZE locomotive, or a ZE capable locomotive, to operate in California.

In 2035,

'All Class I Line Haul locomotives that have an original engine built date after 2035 would be required to run in a ZE-configuration -- i.e. qualify as a ZE locomotive, or ZE capable locomotive in order to operate in California.

CARB estimates between 2023-2050 that this regulation would reduce emissions of greenhouse gases by 21.9 million tons, 389,630 tonnes of NOx, and 7,455 tons particulate matter. This would be the equivalent of removing all heavy duty diesel trucks from California roads in 2030.

CARB estimates that in 2022 locomotives in passenger and freight operation will emit more than 640 tonnes of PM2.5 per year and over 29,800 tonnes of NOx per year.

Environmentalists and rail industry have different opinions on the rule's utility

This week's debate will be the latest of a series that began in 2009.

It has been years since this started

Whether to regulate locomotive emission. This proposed regulation will be released in November 2022.

The American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association has stated that the regulation could cause a number short line railroads in California to be 'financially bankrupt'.

CARB has drastically underestimated the costs of the proposed rule. The rule includes extremely burdensome recordkeeping requirements and anti-idling provisions, but the spending account provision is the most significant burden for small businesses.

ASLRRA stated in a statement dated April 2021


The trade association said that the cost of new locomotives which could be compliant is between $5 and $7 million per locomotive.

ASLRRA stated that these regulations, when combined with other regulations from local districts in certain parts of the State mandating additional improvements, such as exhaust scrubbers for shop facilities and new indirect emissions source rules, would destabilize the short line railroad industry in the state, which operates on relatively low profit margins. This would result in California shippers being cut off from rail services, affecting their ability to compete with the U.S. economy and other countries.

ASLRRA questioned also the legality the regulation, since locomotives - including those that travel from outside of California to California - participate in interstate trade.

Earthjustice, an environmental advocate, said that the regulation will clean the air of communities located near rail yards.

There are few places in the world where diesel pollution from locomotives is as prevalent as communities near railyards. Southern California's Inland Empire region and Los Angeles are well-acquainted with the pollution caused by locomotives.

Earthjustice senior associate attorney Yasmine Agelidis

The group's website said on Wednesday

"Not only are these areas suffering from some of worst air pollution in the nation, but at least 10 of California's 18 major railyards are located in this area."

Agelidis pointed out that CARB also conducted an environmental assessment.


In 2023, trucks will be more environmentally friendly than trains for transporting cargo.

CARB regulations require that Californians switch to zero-emission trucks. CARB

You are seeking

Accelerate the target of zero-emission vehicle requirements in California's trucking industry to 2036, from 2040.

Union Pacific and BNSF are Class I railroads. Both railroads have participated in the testing of alternatively powered locomotives, with state officials.