Air Resources Board threatens cancellation of $1.5 Billion BNSF rail facility – public comment due April 22

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Barstow International Gateway
Photo credit: BNSF

BARSTOW – A California Air Resources Board (CARB) regulation requiring the implementation of zero-emission locomotives is threatening the cancellation of a new $1.5 Billion BNSF rail facility, says the Association of American Railroads.

The Barstow International Gateway, a 4,500-acre new rail facility, was to create 20,000  jobs for Barstow and other High Desert communities.

Prohibits locomotives with engine build dates 23 years and older

CARB says the In-Use Locomotive Regulation, effective January 1, 2024, will achieve emission reductions that will reduce health risk associated with exposure to toxic and criteria pollutants, help meet federal air quality standards, and support the greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction goals of California. 

Locomotive operators are required to fund a Spending Account (SA) based on the public health costs to Californians from locomotive emissions and activity levels. Locomotive operators may use funds held in the SA to purchase cleaner locomotive technologies.

In addition, the regulation would prohibit locomotives with engine build dates 23 years and older from operating in California starting in 2030.

Burdens on railroads both in California and nationally

The Association of American Railroads says despite concerns raised, CARB proceeded with the rule which will impose significant financial and operational burdens on railroads both in California and nationally.

According to the association the regulation mandates investments in locomotives that are not yet commercially viable.

In addition, the association says it limits the useful life of over 25,000 locomotives with its ban on the operation of any locomotive that is 23 years or older.

The cost of goods movement through California would increase to the point of being non-competitive, shifting cargo to other ports outside the state,” said the Association of American Railroads.

The association says the national supply chain and West Coast port throughput would suffer without new rail projects that improve efficiency. They say ultimately, the regulation will result in shifting freight from rail — the most efficient way to move goods over land — to trucks, increasing highway congestion.

Public comment

Although the regulation went into effect January 1, 2024, the association says CARB must obtain approval from EPA before they can begin enforcing two key provisions of the rule. EPA is currently taking public comment on whether to approve or deny CARB’s request, with comments due to EPA on or before April 22.

To submit a public comment visit https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2024/02/27/2024-03955/california-state-nonroad-engine-pollution-control-standards-in-use-locomotive-regulation-requests

RELATED: Air Resources Board hosting workshop on climate change program amendments that would increase gas by 50 cents

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