Graves leads fellow Republicans in denouncing Calif. board’s proposed emissions request

U.S. Rep. Sam Graves (R-MO), chairman of the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, led 32 of the committee’s Republicans in opposing the California Air Resource Board’s (CARB’s) authorization request to set new emissions standards on railroad operations.

“Railroads are a crucial mode in the movement of freight and passengers in interstate commerce,” wrote Rep. Graves and his colleagues in an April 22 letter sent to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Michael Regan. “Congress has enacted and courts have issued rulings on an entire body of law to ensure that individual states and localities, or even groups of states and localities, do not enact policies that specifically interfere with the operations of railroads.”

Specifically, the members urged the EPA to deny CARB’s authorization request to establish new emissions standards, procedures, financial assessments, and reporting requirements on railroad operations through its In-Use Locomotive Regulation, also known as the CARB Rule, due to “its departure from historical norms and unworkability.”

For instance, under the Clean Air Act, the EPA must approve CARB’s petition, they wrote.

In addition, the House Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee exercises authorization and oversight authority of America’s freight and passenger transportation systems, according to the letter.

“The CARB Rule is an example of a regulation that directly conflicts with existing statutory policies within the purview of the [T&I] Committee,” wrote Rep. Graves and his fellow lawmakers, who included U.S. Reps. Mike Bost (R-IL), Garret Graves (R-LA), Dusty Johnson (R-SD), Brian Mast (R-FL), and Pete Stauber (R-MN). “Accordingly, EPA must reject CARB’s petition.”

At the same time, Rep. Graves and the committee members wrote that the potential CARB Rule would cause significant damage to interstate commerce and supply chains, pointing out that it would effectively ban conventionally powered locomotives and force a transition to zero-emissions trains that have not been sufficiently tested. 

The proposed CARB Rule also includes what are essentially illegal requirements — including an In-Use Operational Requirement, the Idling Requirement, the Spending Account, and the Registration, Reporting and Recordkeeping Requirements — each of which conflicts with existing statute and ignores the principle of federal preemption of state or local government policies affecting railroads, Rep. Graves and his colleagues wrote.

“We encourage the federal government, states, localities and railroad operators to continue to work together on meaningful and voluntary initiatives to address the externalities of railroad operations,” wrote the lawmakers. “Unfortunately, the CARB rule is an excessive overreach that threatens interstate freight and passenger rail transportation. The CARB Petition for Authorization must be rejected by EPA.”