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EPA rules may impact rail operations

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Union Pacific coal trains wait in Bill, Wyo., before being dispatched to Wyoming coal mines. In Utah, coal is hauled weekly by train between mines and power plants.

Union Pacific coal trains wait in Bill, Wyo., before being dispatched to Wyoming coal mines. In Utah, coal is hauled weekly by train between mines and power plants.

Nati Harnik, Associated Press

Correction: The Utah Transit Authority's 12 locomotives for its FrontRunner commuter rail system are rated Tier 1, they are re-manufactured and they were built in Boise. The passenger cars for FrontRunner are being manufactured new overseas for UTA. Information originally provided by the UTA was incorrect for a story that appeared in the Deseret Morning News about new federal emissions standards that impact diesel locomotives.

New federal emissions standards announced Friday targeting locomotive and marine diesel engines are expected to impact rail operations in Utah, where coal is hauled weekly by train between mines and power plants.

"This is one of the last remaining sources of pollution that needed to be regulated," said Cheryl Heying, director of the Utah Department of Environmental Quality's air quality division. "They've been dragging their feet — this is something we've been looking forward to."

Long term, Heying added, the new emissions will be a good idea, but she is hesitant to offer further comment until the Environmental Protection Agency posts more details about an implementation timeline and logistics. So far, the EPA has said that tighter long-term standards will begin in 2014 for marine diesel engines and 2015 for locomotives.

The Utah Transit Authority, however, is already in the clear with its 12 diesel locomotives that will eventually haul commuters riding UTA's FrontRunner.

"All of our locomotives already meet the (EPA) Tier 2 emission standard," said UTA spokeswoman Carrie Bohnsack-Ware.

FrontRunner's engines were manufactured overseas new for UTA and no upgrading was required. UTA's TRAX system in Salt Lake County operates using overhead electrical wires.

EPA anticipates its new emissions standards will "slash" pollution from diesel-powered locomotives and marine vehicles by up to 90 percent, with results showing up as soon as this year. EPA officials say the new standards nationwide will cut soot, or particulate matter (PM), by 27,000 tons, or 90 percent, and reduce nitrogen oxides (NOx) released into the air by 80 percent, or 800,000 tons.

"As more and more goods flow through our ports and railways, EPA is cutting diesel emissions at their source — keeping our nation on track toward a clean, healthy, productive tomorrow," EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson said in a statement.

The latest EPA announcement comes on the heels of the EPA's new 2008 eight-hour ozone standard, which by 2010 will begin singling out counties that can't meet the new 75 parts per billion standard. The EPA said marine and locomotive diesel engines are a significant contributor to pollution in areas currently in violation of the new ozone standard.

Officials with Utah Railway Company, whose core business is hauling coal, were not able to comment for this story. URC's Web site claims it transports more than 90,000 carloads of freight per year in central and northern Utah. URC says it transports 60,000 carloads of coal annually to power plants and industrial customers.

URC's parent company, Connecticut-based Genesee & Wyoming Inc., operates 48 railroads in nine U.S. regions.

"I'm sure our locomotive folks need a little time to study the announcement and determine how it applies to our local railroads," Genesee spokesman Michael Williams said in an e-mail.

The EPA said its new emissions requirement will impact all diesel locomotives, which includes line-haul, switch and passenger rail. Marine sources such as ferries, tugboats, Great Lake freighters and all types of marine auxiliary engines will also be affected, the EPA said.

By 2030 the EPA estimates the new standards will help prevent 1,400 premature deaths and 120,000 lost workdays, with anticipated health benefits from cleaner air valued as high as $12 billion.

The EPA said it is also finalizing what it calls idle-reduction requirements for newly built and remanufactured locomotives.

The Natural Resources Defense Council said in a statement it has been advocating for tougher standards for diesel-powered marine and locomotive engines.

"While ships and trains deliver many things Americans want, nobody needs to breathe their toxic soot," NRDC director Richard Kassel said. "These ships and trains emit as much smog-forming pollution each year as 120 coal-fired power plants."

E-mail: sspeckman@desnews.com