A new Environmental Defense report finds that diesel locomotive air pollution
is linked to about 3,400 premature deaths and other serious health effects
every year, and calls on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to
protect human health by issuing overdue clean air standards. Environmental
Defense's report, "Smokestacks on Rails: Getting Clean Air Solutions for
Locomotives on Track," examines diesel train pollution nationally and in
Baltimore, Chicago, Dallas-Ft. Worth, Detroit, Houston-Galveston and Los
Most of the trains in America today are powered by diesel engines. Diesel
exhaust contains particulate matter, a deadly form of air pollution that's
linked to lung cancer and other respiratory problems. Diesel exhaust also
contains smog-forming oxides of nitrogen, sulfur dioxide, which falls back to
earth as acid rain, and greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.
In 2004, the EPA announced plans to issue proposed national locomotive emission
standards in 2005 and to such standards by mid-2006. But EPA has failed to act.
Environmental Defense's new report calls on the EPA to fulfill its public
commitment and strengthen clean air standards for these high polluting
"smokestacks on rails."
While trains capture the vivid imagination of children during the holiday
season and are workhorses in American commerce, the pollution from locomotive
smokestacks imposes a heavy burden on human health," said Bill Chameides,
Ph.D., chief scientist at Environmental Defense and a member of the U.S.
National Academy of Sciences. "With EPA's leadership, we can protect America's
lungs from locomotive pollution and deliver America's freight with cleaner
The use of trains for freight transport has doubled in the last 35 years, and
today trains release levels of smog-forming oxides of nitrogen (NOx) comparable
to 120 coal-fired power plants. In Chicago, for example, locomotives discharged
as much NOx into the air in one year as 25 million cars meeting today's
automotive emission standards. By 2030, EPA estimates that trains will be
responsible for about one-third of all particulate pollution in the air from
the transportation sector, unless more protective emission standards are put in
"Fortunately, solutions to clean up locomotive pollution are at hand," said
Environmental Defense staff attorney Janea Scott. "The cleaner fuel that
enables advanced cleaner-diesel technology is already on the books, and
emissions-reducing technologies are already being tested."
Hybrid switcher engines for trains, called Green Goats, can cut fuel use by as
much as 70 percent and emissions by up to 90 percent. New technologies can keep
train engines warm while they are turned off so the trains don't have to idle.
But right now rigorous clean air solutions are not required by law.
The report also calls for new programs to encourage faster clean up of today's
dirty train engines, and full funding of grant programs to help lower harmful
pollutants from diesel engines on the road today. The federal Diesel Emissions
Reduction Act, which was passed overwhelmingly with bipartisan support in 2005,
authorized $200 million in annual funding for diesel retrofits but
appropriations have fallen far short.
AplusA-online.de - Source: Environmental Protection