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EPA and Major Railroads Reach Agreement to Reduce Air Pollution Around Houston

Release Date: 12/4/2000
Contact Information: For more information contact the Office of External Affairs at (214) 665-2200.

     A voluntary agreement to reduce air pollution in the 8-county Houston area was signed today by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway Company (BNSF), Union Pacific Railroad Company (UP), the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission (TNRCC) and the Houston-Galveston Area Council (HGAC).

     The railroad companies have agreed to reduce their emissions by 2 tons per day of oxides of nitrogen (NOx). NOx contributes to a variety of environmental problems, including ground level ozone (smog), acid rain and haze. The Houston area exceeded health-based air quality standards for ozone 42 days in 2000.

     EPA's 1998 regulations will reduce NOx emissions from new and remanufactured locomotives by two thirds. Today's commitment will lead to NOx emission reductions from these railroads by an additional 17 percent by 2007.

     "We are very pleased that these companies are stepping up to the plate to help the Houston area breathe easier. If every company in the area echoed this level of commitment, Houston's air quality would be greatly improved. Houston's children and families deserve no less," EPA Regional Administrator Gregg Cooke said.

     In signing a "Statement of Principles" document today, the railroads have entered into EPA's Voluntary Mobile Source Emission Reduction Program.

     Union Pacific Railroad Company Chairman's Special Representative Joe Adams said, "Moving freight by rail produces only one sixth of the emissions on a ton mile basis as moving it over the highways. Through our investment in new locomotives and the use of new technology,  we'll do even better. Union Pacific is delighted to sign up as part of the solution to the region's air quality challenges."

     Mark Stehly, Assistant Vice President, Environment and Research Development with Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway Company said, "Because of Houston's poor air quality, it is critical that BNSF voluntarily agree to reduce locomotive emissions. This is important to the Houston community and that is why BNSF entered into this agreement with EPA, TNRCC and HGAC. Railroads are considered to be the most environmentally friendly mode of transportation. We hope other industries in the Houston area will follow our lead and do their share to help clean up the air; it's just the right thing to do."

     The TNRCC has agreed to include these voluntary railroad reductions in its air quality plan for Houston.

     TNRCC Commissioner Ralph Marquez said, "We need every single reduction possible so today's announcement is an important step in identifying additional air pollution reductions to clean up the air in the Houston-Galveston non-attainment region. We applaud the work of all of the partners in this effort."

     The HGAC has been instrumental in coordinating this agreement, which is similar to an agreement reached between BNSF, UP and the California Air Resources Board.

     Houston-Galveston Area Council Executive Director Jack Steele said, "The Region's local governments recognize and appreciate the benefits that the railroads' good citizenship commitment will bring. We hope that many other companies will join them in voluntary emissions reduction commitments."

     Houston Mayor Lee P. Brown said, "This is a fine example of exactly what I've called for; each entity and individual assuming their share of responsibility for reducing NOx emissions in the Houston-Galveston-Brazoria non-attainment Region.  The railroads have shown leadership in addressing our Region's No. 1 public policy challenge and solid commitment to improving the health of all of our people. These are corporate partners of whom we can be proud."

     More information on EPA's air emission requirements for locomotives is available on the Internet at .