Gino DiCaro

Locomotive Emissions Fee Bill

By Gino DiCaro, VP, Communications

Capitol Update, Aug. 11, 2006

Senator Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles) is the author of SB 459, Locomotive Air Emissions, South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD).  This bill would establish what is being called a "fee", based on locomotive emissions, on the railroads within SCAQMD and use it to fund mitigation measures for NOx emissions from other sources that impact air quality and public health.

Not only is this unlimited fee definitely a tax (which should require a two thirds vote of the legislature not a simple majority), but it would undoubtedly be pre-empted by federal law in the courts as a measure designed to regulate a mobile source.

This fee, projected to be in the millions of dollars, would have a significant effect on the cost of goods movement by rail.

Moreover, if the Governor signed SB 459, the railroads could easily argue that a SCAQMD locomotive fee is a state action forcing them to redesign their locomotive fleet.  In such an event, the railroads could legally terminate the Memorandum of Understanding, which they voluntarily signed just last summer with the California Air Resources Board.  This agreement guarantees a NOx reduction of 24 tons per day in the South Coast Air Basin alone and a 20% reduction in diesel particulate matter emissions in California over a 15-month period.

This bill is currently on Suspense in the Assembly Appropriations Committee, but is expected to proceed to the Floor of the Assembly.  CMTA and the CalTrade coalition have been actively opposing this bill.
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