Entering an area of pollution regulation that had been solely the federal government’s job, California regulators Thursday set fuel standards for watercraft and locomotives that will be broader and will take effect sooner than impending federal rules.
The standards approved by the California Air Resources Board are expected to greatly help asthma sufferers who live near train tracks or rail yards. The rules will be phased in over two years, beginning in 2006.
Like California’s clean air standards for gasoline, the new regulations will require refiners to create two grades of fuel: one to meet federal Environmental Protection Agency regulations and another to meet the tougher California regulations.
Because states cannot regulate interstate commerce, the tougher standards apply only to locomotives or watercraft operating within California, such as recreational and commercial vessels plying coastal waters and engines that transfer cars within railroad yards.
There was no formal opposition to the changes; refiners and the air board said many intrastate trains and watercraft already use diesel fuel that meets the new requirements. The new standards were supported by an array of divergent interests, including British Petroleum, railroads and environmental groups.
The air board estimates the new standards will cut airborne particulates — microscopic soot — from locomotives and watercraft by about 25 percent. Acid rain-causing sulfur oxide emissions from the vehicles would be cut 78 percent, and smog-forming nitrogen oxides would drop about 3 percent.
Similar federal sulfur regulations are set to take effect in 2010 for motor vehicles and 2012 for watercraft and locomotives. However, the federal standards do not require the same eventual reduction in particulates and nitrogen oxides as the California regulations.