At instances through the winter, the emissions coming from the Union Pacific Railroad’s rail switching yard in South Salt Lake equal these off close by Interstate 15 at rush hour.
It’s because the railroad makes use of the dirtiest switcher locomotives obtainable in the USA. For years, Utah lawmakers have tried to get the Omaha, Nebr.-based UP to voluntarily repower the diesel rigs it makes use of to assemble trains for interstate journeys with cleaner expertise to assist cut back air air pollution on the Wasatch Entrance even providing to cowl a 3rd of the associated fee.
In an indication the Legislature has lastly misplaced persistence with the Class I freight hauler, which earned a file $6.5 billion final 12 months, a invoice crusing by way of this session would require railroads to transform their switcher fleets to emission-free hydrogen-fuel cell or battery-electric energy by 2028.
Many main polluters, like Rio Tinto and Utah’s oil refineries, have invested thousands and thousands in decreasing emissions and producing cleaner fuels, based on HB405 sponsor Rep. Mike Schultz, R-Hooper.
“Union Pacific isn’t a kind of good company residents,” Schultz, the Home majority chief, instructed the Home Financial Growth and Workforce Providers Committee on Tuesday. “The railroad is upgrading switchers in different states, however Utah isn’t on their record although we now have the worst air high quality within the nation and world at instances.”
The committee superior the invoice, which was then unanimously accredited by the complete Home.
The invoice would apply solely to switchers utilized in rail yards, the place no less than 4 function.
Union Pacific owns 45 of the 63 at present working in Utah, largely on the three rail yards on the Wasatch Entrance, based on the Utah Division of Air High quality (DAQ). The busiest is the Roper Rail Yard at 650 W. Davis Street, simply south of State Street 201. The cleanest locomotives obtainable meet the Tier 4 customary, but all of UP’s switchers in Utah are both Tier O or Tier 0-plus.
Changing such a locomotive’s powertrain with Tier 4 expertise, costing about $2 million, would cut back its emissions by 89%, based on DAQ.
“This isn’t a state of affairs the place it’s very costly for negligible enchancment,” stated Ashley Miller of Breathe Utah. “These corporations must be held accountable for the air pollution they create, particularly when there’s expertise obtainable to scale back it so considerably. They should step up and do the precise factor for the individuals of Utah.”
However the high-polluting locomotives’ air high quality impacts are exacerbated by their water-based cooling techniques, based on Daniel Mendoza, a College of Utah atmospheric scientist.
“Throughout the complete winter season, late fall and early spring as effectively, they must be idling 24/7,” he testified on Tuesday. “In any other case, the engine block would crack if the water freezes. So, sadly, throughout our worst intervals of air air pollution through the wintertime, it’s when these engines are consistently working.”
He famous the presence of 9 colleges inside a 2-mile radius of Roper, forming a fringe that reaches effectively into economically marginalized neighborhoods in West Valley Metropolis, South Salt Lake and Salt Lake Metropolis.
Addressing the committee, Union Pacific spokesman Nathan Anderson emphasised the corporate’s total local weather and clear air commitments however didn’t communicate to the particular prices leveled by Schultz.
“We’re happy with our local weather motion plan working towards a cleaner future. We count on innovation, disruption and transformation as expertise develops to satisfy the wants of our trade,” Anderson stated. “Trains already produce about 75% fewer emissions than vans and are a part of an total cleaner answer.”
He stated the corporate plans to chop emissions 26% from 2018 ranges by 2030 by way of elevated reliance on renewable diesel fuels.
“Elevated use of those various fuels will permit us to make vital environmental good points with our present fleet whereas evaluating promising however fledgling expertise within the locomotive area,” Anderson stated. “We don’t anticipate battery electrical expertise to be adequate or obtainable at scale for operations till after 2030. Through the vetting interval, it’s crucial that the obtainable fleet meet buyer wants and retains the nation’s provide chain fluid.”
Whereas Union Pacific upgrades its locomotives elsewhere, its Utah switcher fleet continues to pump 3,000 tons of nitrogen oxide and different pollution into the airshed, representing one of many largest single “level sources” in Utah.
“Just a few locomotives would possibly make a minor distinction, but it surely gained’t remedy the air high quality downside,” Anderson stated. “Voluntary agreements are higher than mandates.”
Schultz concurred voluntary motion could be higher, however famous none has been forthcoming from Union Pacific.