Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

California Rail Yards Sued Over Diesel Pollution

California Rail Yards Sued Over Diesel Pollution

Natural Resources Defense Council

A lawsuit announced Oct. 19 representing hundreds of thousands of Californians, many of which live near rail yard facilities throughout California, seeks to eliminate toxic diesel pollution from rail operations owned by Union Pacific Corporation (UP), Burlington Northern Santa Fe, LLC, and BNSF Railway Company (BNSF).

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice (EYCEJ), and the Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice (CCAEJ) represent vulnerable communities living adjacent to these 17 densely-populated rail communities.

“The rail industry is subject to the same laws as other major polluters,” said David Pettit, NRDC senior attorney. “These companies must be held accountable for the health problems their operations cause people and the lives put at stake. People living near rail yards in San Bernardino should have the same quality of air as people living in Beverly Hills.”

Two of the most polluting rail yards in the state are in Southern California, at the Intermodal Container Transfer Facility and San Bernardino facilities, with millions of people living within eight miles of both facilities.

“For too long our communities have borne the brunt of deadly diesel pollution from nearby rail yards,” said Angelo Logan, executive director for EYCEJ. “It is time the railroad companies right the wrongs that they have imposed on California residents. It is time that Union Pacific and BNSF become good neighbors.”

“When we reach a point where we have children as young as three years old, reliant on their air machines just to breathe, we have reached a public health crisis that demands drastic measures,” said Penny Newman, executive director for CCAEJ. “No company should be allowed to operate with total disregard for the harm they are causing.”

Millions of Californians inhale toxic diesel particulate pollution generated annually by rail yards. California’s Air Resources Board has struggled for years over how to regulate diesel pollution from railroads, and despite recent efforts by federal EPA, communities in close proximity to rail yards remain vulnerable to the serious health risks posed by these facilities. The health dangers of diesel particulate emissions are well-known. Increased incidence of cancer, asthma and respiratory and cardiac conditions are attributed to inhaling diesel particulate matter.

Background

On June 21, 2011, NRDC sent letters of intent to sue to UP, Burlington Northern Santa Fe, LLC, and BNSF, the only two major railroads that haul freight in California. The letters contend that the rail yard operators are in violation of the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act due to the high levels of hazardous particulate matter released by their diesel-based operations. In the letter, NRDC challenged UP and BNSF to reduce these harmful pollutants within 90 days or risk litigation. No progress has been made or any good faith effort on behalf of UP or BNSF to address the pollutants.

Solutions to reduce diesel pollution include the use of locomotives, trucks, and equipment that meet the most stringent U.S. Environmental Protection Agency emissions standards as well as the use of electric vehicles. Adopting idling control devices and prohibiting idling near residences will also reduce pollution exposure caused by locomotives. Fleet modernization programs can be adopted to progressively retire older, more polluting vehicles and locomotives, and put newer, cleaner models into service.

For more information, click here.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

This image of the Santa Monica Mountains in California shows how a north-facing slope (left) can be covered in white-blooming hoaryleaf ceanothus (Ceanothus crassifolius), while the south-facing slope (right) is much less sparsely covered in a completely different plant. Noah Elhardt / Wikimedia Commons / CC by 2.5

By Mark Mancini

If weather is your mood, climate is your personality. That's an analogy some scientists use to help explain the difference between two words people often get mixed up.

Read More Show Less
Flames from the Lake Fire burn on a hillside near a fire truck and other vehicles on Aug. 12, 2020 in Lake Hughes, California. Mario Tama / Getty Images

An "explosive" wildfire ignited in Los Angeles county Wednesday, growing to 10,000 acres in a little less than three hours.

Read More Show Less
Although heat waves rarely get the attention that hurricanes do, they kill far more people per year in the U.S. and abroad. greenaperture / Getty Images

By Jeff Berardelli

Note: This story was originally published on August 6, 2020

If asked to recall a hurricane, odds are you'd immediately invoke memorable names like Sandy, Katrina or Harvey. You'd probably even remember something specific about the impact of the storm. But if asked to recall a heat wave, a vague recollection that it was hot during your last summer vacation may be about as specific as you can get.

Read More Show Less

A film by Felix Nuhr.

Thailand has a total population of 5,000 elephants. But of that number, 3,000 live in captivity, carrying tourists on their backs and offering photo opportunities made for social media.

Read More Show Less
Scientists have found a way to use bricks as batteries, meaning that buildings may one day be used to store and generate power. Public Domain Pictures

One of the challenges of renewable power is how to store clean energy from the sun, wind and geothermal sources. Now, a new study and advances in nanotechnology have found a method that may relieve the burden on supercapacitor storage. This method turns bricks into batteries, meaning that buildings themselves may one day be used to store and generate power, Science Times reported.

Bricks are a preferred building tool for their durability and resilience against heat and frost since they do not shrink, expand or warp in a way that compromises infrastructure. They are also reusable. What was unknown, until now, is that they can be altered to store electrical energy, according to a new study published in Nature Communications.

The scientists behind the study figured out a way to modify bricks in order to use their iconic red hue, which comes from hematite, an iron oxide, to store enough electricity to power devices, Gizmodo reported. To do that, the researchers filled bricks' pores with a nanofiber made from a conducting plastic that can store an electrical charge.

The first bricks they modified stored enough of a charge to power a small light. They can be charged in just 13 minutes and hold 10,000 charges, but the challenge is getting them to hold a much larger charge, making the technology a distant proposition.

If the capacity can be increased, researchers believe bricks can be used as a cheap alternative to lithium ion batteries — the same batteries used in laptops, phones and tablets.

The first power bricks are only one percent of a lithium-ion battery, but storage capacity can be increased tenfold by adding materials like metal oxides, Julio D'Arcy, a researcher at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, who contributed to the paper and was part of the research team, told The Guardian. But only when the storage capacity is scaled up would bricks become commercially viable.

"A solar cell on the roof of your house has to store electricity somewhere and typically we use batteries," D'Arcy told The Guardian. "What we have done is provide a new 'food-for-thought' option, but we're not there yet.

"If [that can happen], this technology is way cheaper than lithium ion batteries," D'Arcy added. "It would be a different world and you would not hear the words 'lithium ion battery' again."

Aerial view of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Gamboa, Panama, where a new soil study was held, on Sept. 11, 2019. LUIS ACOSTA / AFP via Getty Images

One of the concerns about a warming planet is the feedback loop that will emerge. That is, as the planet warms, it will melt permafrost, which will release trapped carbon and lead to more warming and more melting. Now, a new study has shown that the feedback loop won't only happen in the nether regions of the north and south, but in the tropics as well, according to a new paper in Nature.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods speaks during a press conference after a shooting at Forest High School on April 20, 2018 in Ocala, Florida. Gerardo Mora / Getty Images

By Jessica Corbett

A sheriff in Florida is under fire for deciding Tuesday to ban his deputies from wearing face masks while on the job—ignoring the advice of public health experts about the safety measures that everyone should take during the coronavirus pandemic as well as the rising Covid-19 death toll in his county and state.

Read More Show Less