East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice info@eycej.org 323.263.2113

Rail Yard Pollution

Railyard Pollution

Campaign Summary
On September 25, 2009, CARB held a board hearing to discuss recommendations to implement further locomotive and rail yard emission reductions. Over 3,000 post-cards were submitted to the board as well as a sign-on letter from various health, environmental, and environmental justice organizations to ask for a commitment to enforceable measures that would equate risk reductions from railyards. Beside the written statements, EYCEJ mobilized over 30 organizations and 200 individuals from the state of California to the September board hearing to push for a regulatory approach for locomotives and rail yards to protect the health of all residents who are adversely affected by their emissions.

Results from CARB’s Board Hearing

After considering the public testimony, the CARB Board stated that the staff’s recommendation for an incentive/locomotive only approach was not enough and directed staff to return within 120 days (January 2010 board meeting) with a more comprehensive plan that considered the implementation of the following:

  1. Develop a rule requiring the railroads to put into place and implement a risk reduction plan for each of the high risk rail yards, with direction that the first such plan be for the BNSF San Bernardino rail yard, that would include measures not otherwise preempted by federal law.
  2. Develop a rule requiring the greatest achievable emission reductions from sources operating at high-risk rail yards, including electrifying gantry cranes, yard hostlers, trucks and other equipment.
  3. In developing the above two rules, CARB staff shall consider the use of local air districts authority to enact an indirect source rule to reduce emissions and risk around rail yards.
  4. Develop a medium horsepower and switcher locomotive rule through the use of incentive funds and a regulatory element for reducing emissions and risk reduction.

In developing the report, the Board directed the staff to collaborate with representatives from the railroads, local community groups, local governments, local air districts, and other stakeholders, as appropriate.


  • CARB staff has proposed a non-regulatory agreement between CARB and the railroads in meeting the Board’s objective. This agreement would be set up with a “backstop” provision, meaning that if the railroad industry fails to meet the agreement goals, CARB would implement regulatory measures (backstop). They are now in negotiations with the railroads and will bring the final letters to the board in July.
  • We disagree with CARB staff’s proposed approach, CARB should adopt the rules it has authority to adopt and work with the railroads to agree to other binding measures that go above and beyond. CARB should initiate notice of rulemaking, resolution, further action on Petitioners’ Petition for Rulemaking (granted in part in January 2008). Their proposal should identify specific health risk reduction goals, and enforceable measures for emission & risk reduction including monitoring, and a timeline.

California Air Resource Board Rail Yard Emission Reduction Program
Health Risk Assessments: 4 Combined Commerce Railyards (UP Commerce, BNSF Hobart, BNSF Eastern, and BNSF Sheila)

EY Resources
Locomotive and Railyard Pollution
Factsheet: Health Risk Assessment of Railyards in Commerce
Factsheet: The Need for Locomotive and Railyard Regulations