A mainstay of the national economy, railroads haul an estimated $100 billion in goods throughout the Los Angeles region annually.
But diesel powered locomotives are also part of Southern California’s “mobile sources” which account for nearly 75% of the air pollution Los Angeles breathe. The nitrogen oxide pollutants emitted from Southern California railroads exceed emissions from 100 of the largest oil refineries, power plants, chemical plants, and other industrial facilities combined, according to the South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD). Railroad pollution has helped the region earn the title as the only “extreme” nonattainment area for ozone in the nation.
To protect public health, Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles (PSR-LA) has taken an active role in ensuring the passage of SB 1397 by writing letters of support, educating the public, lobbying legislatures, and collaborating with environmental justice and public health groups working to improve the health of communities impacted by railroad pollution.
SB 1397 (Escutia) could reduce railroad locomotive-emissions by giving AQMD the authority to impose fees on polluting locomotives. The bill would allow “AQMD to adopt a reasonable emissions mitigation fee on railroad companies that operate [in Southern California], require the district to consider recommendations from an advisory committee, and mandate that fee revenues be used on those communities most impacted by railroad pollution,” according to the bill’s language. In short, SB 1397 would allow AQMD to regulate railroad locomotives and all activities within rail yards.
Opponents of the bill say extra regulations could add an additional strain to the economy. “The bill’s faulty premise is that it is necessary to provide new authority to the District. [The] overkill will result in transportation mode shifting [and] increased pollution,” reads a statement from opponents of the bill which include the California Railroad Industry and the California Association of Port Authorities, among a few others.
The list of groups who favor increased railroad regulations are in the hundreds, including the California Nurses Association, the Teamsters, and PSR-LA.