An Examination of the California Air Resources Board’s (CARB) In Use Locomotive Regulation

2167 Rayburn House Office Building

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0 Tuesday, July 09, 2024 @ 02:00 | Contact: Justin Harclerode 202-225-9446

This is a hearing of the Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials.

Witness List:

  • Mr. Dillon Olvera, President and Chief Executive Officer, Modesto and Empire Traction Company; on behalf of the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association | Witness Testimony
  • Mr. Roger Nober, Director of GW Regulatory Studies Center and Professor of Practice at the Trachtenberg School, George Washington University | Witness Testimony
  • Mr. Ural Yal, Senior Vice President – Corporate Preconstruction Group, Flatiron Construction; on behalf of the Associated General Contractors of California | Witness Testimony
  • Ms. Heather Arias, Chief, Transportation and Toxics Division, California Air Resources Board | Witness Testimony

Opening remarks, as prepared, of Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee Chairman Troy E. Nehls (R-TX) from hearing, entitled “An Examination of the California Air Resources Board’s (CARB) In Use Locomotive Regulation”:

At almost 145,000 route miles, the United States has one of the most efficient and comprehensive freight rail systems in the world.  It is also one of the safest. The benefits of this system aren’t just measured in miles and tons of freight shipped, they can also be measured in other benefits including reduced fuel consumption and associated emissions reductions. Rail is capable of transporting a ton of freight for more than 450 miles on only one gallon of diesel fuel.

Unfortunately, the Biden Administration and the State of California remain intent on pushing an unwanted, radical Green New Deal agenda on the American people, regardless of the cost and consequences to our economic and national security.

While this hearing has been called to discuss the California Air Resource Board’s request for authorization for a state-based regulation, we should be very mindful that this proposed regulation is not just confined to California. It’s national in both impact and intent.

According to CARB’s own analysis, the rule would require both BNSF and Union Pacific to replace their entire fleet of locomotives nationwide to comply with the regulation, which will cost billions of dollars and will make freight transportation and the costs of goods drastically more expensive.

We are also concerned about the rule’s impact on short line operations, which Mr. Olvera will highlight for us in his testimony. As the United States rail transportation system is intrinsically linked and vital to the safe and efficient movement of freight and passengers in interstate commerce, other rail operators would also be forced to adjust their own operations.

The importance of rail transportation is so great that Congress has enacted a number of statutes specifically designed to ensure the preservation of this important mode of transportation. For example, railroads were the first American industry to be regulated under the Interstate Commerce Act of 1887.

Many of my colleagues who served last Congress are familiar with the Railroad Labor Act of 1927, which is designed to avoid the potential for economically crippling disruptions in interstate commerce caused by labor disputes.

Additionally, the Staggers Rail Act of 1980 was enacted to restore the economic health of the industry at a time when the railroads were at the verge of bankruptcy due to stifling government regulation: the very same type of economic burden CARB and the Biden Administration seek to reimpose.

Furthermore, the Interstate Commerce Committee Termination Act created the Surface Transportation Board and explicitly “preempts all state laws that may reasonably be said to have the effect of managing or governing rail transportation.”

Finally, there is the Clean Air Act itself, which clearly establishes the federal government acting as the sole regulator of emissions from new locomotives. Unfortunately, this CARB request for authorization is an attempt to circumvent the statutory and legal requirements of both the Clean Air Act and the Administrative Procedure Act

Concerningly, falsely considering a matter of this scope as a waiver instead of an agency rule also denies it coverage under the Small Business Regulatory Efficiency Act and the Congressional Review Act.

Moreover, CARB’s proposal would fail any meaningful cost-benefit analysis.  It also fails to fully consider costs associated with the acquisition of still non-existent — and I am going to repeat this point — non-existent zero emissions locomotives.

The cost of building out, much less permitting the necessary infrastructure, including energy infrastructure, is likewise enormous.                                                              

It is for these reasons that a broad coalition of railroads, shippers, and union organizations have come out in strong opposition to this rule. This regulation must be rejected by EPA and accompanied by a return to sanity in both Sacramento and in Washington.

I look forward to hearing from today’s witnesses about the challenges and opportunities for commuter rail services, as well as best practices to improve service, realize efficiencies, and increase fare revenues.

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