NGFA, Ag Groups, Urge EPA to Deny ‘Dangerous’ CARB Freight Rule

ARLINGTON, Va. — The National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) and other members of the Agricultural Transportation Working Group urged U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Michael Regan to deny the California Air Resources Board’s (CARB) request to authorize zero emissions standards for freight locomotives in California. The proposed CARB regulations “pose a significant danger to U.S. agriculture and the broader U.S. supply chain,” the groups noted in the April 5 letter.

CARB’s “In-Use Locomotive Regulation” mandates that by 2030, only zero-emissions locomotives will be allowed to operate in California. Rail companies in the state also would be required to make annual contributions to a spending account based on emissions during the prior calendar year starting on July 1, 2026.

“If the CARB regulations were authorized by EPA, we believe freight rail carriers and rail customers would be significantly hindered financially and operationally. The inevitable increases in transportation costs and introduction of operational inefficiencies for agricultural shippers and receivers would result in food price inflation,” NGFA and the other working group members stated.

CARB’s proposal requires railroads and rail customers to meet untenable regulatory requirements without any solutions available on the market, the ATWG added. “Specifically, zero emissions locomotives would have to be purchased…but such locomotives are not yet commercially viable and won’t be in the foreseeable future,” the letter stated. “While railroads have conducted limited demonstration projects on battery-powered locomotives, they are not presently commercially viable primarily due to a limited operating range and limitations on battery capacity.”

The proposed regulations would:

• levy annual fees on rail carriers for deposit in accounts that can only be used to comply with the regulations;

• require the decommission of locomotives 23 years or older beginning in 2030 and require that new switch, industrial (rail customer) and passenger locomotives operate in zero-emission configuration (2035 for new line haul locomotives);

• attempt to regulate locomotive emissions by requiring railroads to shut them down while in transit in certain circumstances; and

• impose significant reporting and “administrative payments.”

The Association of American Railroads and the American Short Line and Regional Rail Association are challenging the rules in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California. In the lawsuit, they say the Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act gives the Surface Transportation Board exclusive jurisdiction over the operations of freight rail in interstate commerce and preempts CARB’s regulations. The District Court affirmed the legitimacy of these preemption arguments in an order issued on Feb. 16.

EPA’s deadline for the public to submit comments on the proposal is April 22.

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