One Railroad Company Takes A Great Step to Clean Up its Trains at the Southern California Ports

This week is full of good news for the people breathing the air near the Southern California ports.  First, major components of the Port of Los Angeles’ Clean Truck Program was upheld by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday.  And today the Port of Los Angles and the neighboring Port of Long Beach announced that the trains at the ports are being upgraded with cleaner engines.  Read the LA Times story about it here.

Trains are notoriously polluting and unfortunately our nation’s railroad companies have not cleaned up their act.  Trains emit diesel particulate matter and nitrogen oxides­—these are nasty pollutants that cause cancer, asthma, and premature death.  Although communities across the state, public health, environmental, and environmental justice organizations, and some of our federal and state agencies have for years tried to get the rail industry to reduce its harmful air pollution, railroad companies have not done nearly enough. 

Air pollution from trains both within the port and between the port and nearby railyards is no small problem.  These emissions account for 11% of the Port of Los Angeles’ 271 tons per year of diesel particulate matter emissions and 12% of its 8,216 tons per year of nitrogen oxides emissions,[1] and 8% of the Port of Long Beach’s 271 tons per year of diesel particulate matter and 9% of its 8,400 tons per year of nitrogen oxides emissions.[2] 

One railroad company—Pacific Harbor Line—is taking a great step to reduce this toxic pollution.  PHL transports cargo by rail around both the adjacent ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.  They are retrofitting these trains’ engines with “Tier 3-plus” engines, which will emit 85% less diesel particulate matter and 38% less nitrogen oxides than the trains’ previous engines.   These upgrades are partially paid for by a $12 million dollar grant by the Carl Moyer Memorial Air Quality Standards Attainment Program, which provides funds to help pay for the purchase of cleaner engines.

NRDC applauds PHL for taking this great step to reduce their harmful air emissions, and we also thank the ports for their work to help make this happen.  This upgrade is a great example of what other railroad companies need to do to take responsibility for their air pollution. 


[1] Port of Los Angeles 2010 Air Emissions Inventory.

[2] Port of Long Beach 2010 Air Emissions Inventory.