May 21-28, 2007

Rail sector, federal government renew MOU on air emissions, greenhouse gas reduction

The Railway Association of Canada (RAC) has signed a new agreement with the federal government aimed at helping reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the rail sector. RAC president and CEO Cliff Mackay, Transport, Infrastructure and Communities Minister Lawrence Cannon and Environment Minister John Baird signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the four large Canadian railway companies (Canadian National, Canadian Pacific, Via Rail and Go Transit) May 15 in Ottawa.

The agreement, whose term runs to December 31, 2010, reflects targets and action plans from the rail industry's emission reduction and fleet renewal strategies for the period 2006-2015. It is the second government-industry sector agreement signed with Canada's railways.

Under a previous MOU between the RAC and Environment Canada, rail freight's fuel consumption per 1,000 revenue-tonne-kilometres (RTK) declined 20%, while GHG emissions intensity from the rail sector declined by 15%. (RTK represents the weight of revenue-generating commodities handled times the distance transported.) That MOU, signed in 1995, expired at the end of 2005.

"We intend to improve our performance over the next five years," said Mackay. "The key will be to continue working smarter, doing more with less, building teamwork and sharing knowledge and best practices across the industry and beyond."

Canadian railways move 65% of surface freight in Canada, while producing only 3% of transportation-related GHG emissions, Mackay said. The new agreement will finalize a detailed action plan to help improve on this already excellent track record. "Today's agreement will allow us to continue and improve our environmental efforts," he added.

Under the MOU, Canada's major railway companies have committed to:

*buy only new and freshly manufactured locomotives that meet U.S. EPA emissions standards;

*retire 130 medium-horsepower locomotives built between 1973 and 1999;

*upgrade, upon remanufacturing, all high-horsepower locomotives to EPA emissions standards; and

*upgrade, upon remanufacturing, all medium-horsepower locomotives built after 1972 to EPA emissions standards.

As part of the agreement, the RAC will also encourage its members to make every effort to reduce their collective GHG emissions from railway operations. Specific GHG targets have been set for major freight railways, short line railways, intercity passenger rail and commuter rail services.

The 2010 GHG reduction target for the major freight railways represents a 44% improvement from 1990-2010. The MOU's GHG targets and actions align with EPA emissions standards and are expected to results in continuous, measurable progress in eliminating air pollution from rail sector operations.

This agreement is the first step in a broader plan to reduce air pollution from railway operations consistent with the requirements of the world-leading standards of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Its approach is similar to that taken in the auto sector in which voluntary action is to be followed by a regulation. This allows immediate action to be taken to address air pollutant and GHG emissions from railways while regulations are being prepared. Over the next few years, the federal government will be working with the rail industry to reach MOU goals and consulting with them to put regulations in place in 2011.

"We will begin to regulate emissions from the rail industry in 2011, but while regulations are being put in place, this agreement provides a framework for realizing reductions in both air pollutants and greenhouse gas emissions," said Environment Minister Baird.

"This new MOU is the result of careful negotiations," Mackay said. "It will help ensure significant reductions of greenhouse gas emissions without compromising the railway industry's ability to provide a high quality of service to its customers."

Canadian railways have already made significant progress in reducing railway emissions and energy consumption, as outlined in the latest progress report from the Locomotive Emissions Monitoring (LEM) program, recently released by the RAC.

At 114.86 kilotonnes (kt), the sector's total nitrogen oxide (NOX) emissions in 2005 were just under the voluntary cap of 115 kt set out in the 1995 MOU, and substantially below the 2004 total of 117 kt. The decline was achieved despite increases of 2.8% in revenue traffic (RTK) and 1.1% in fuel consumption during 2005. The report attributes the lower total NOX emissions to an increased number of locomotives meeting the U.S. EPA's Tier 0, Tier 1 or Tier 2 emissions standards.

Total hydrocarbon emissions from all rail operations in 2005 were 6.67 kt. Carbon monoxide emissions were 16.47 kt, while sulfur oxide emissions (expressed as sulfur dioxide) rose to 5.09 from 4.23 kt in 2004. GHG emissions (expressed as carbon dioxide equivalent, CO2e) continued to rise, standing at 6,790 kt in 2005, up from nearly 6,715 kt in 2004 and 6,288 kt in 1990.

Emissions intensity (i.e. per unit of RTK) maintained a downward trend, however. The NOX emissions intensity in 2005 was nearly 30% below that of 1990, dropping from 0.43 kilograms (kg) per 1,000 RTK to 0.31 kg/1,000 RTK in 2005. GHG emissions intensity (as CO2e per 1,000 RTK) declined from nearly 24 kg/1,000 RTK in 1990 to just over 18 kg/1,000 RTK in 2005, a 23% reduction.

As noted, fuel consumption by all railway operations increased by 1.1%, from 2.18 million litres in 2004 to nearly 2.21 million in 2005. Of the total, class 1 freight trains consumed 85.7%, regional and short line trains another 6.3%. Switching and work operations and passenger trains consumed the remainder of the total.

On a per-unit of productivity basis, freight operations reduced their fuel consumption from six litres per 1,000 RTK in 2005 to 5.97 L/1,000 RTK in 2005. This continues a downward trend maintained since 2002 and represents a 23.8% reduction since 1990, when consumption stood at 7.83 L/1,000 RTK.

The report details a wide range of emission reduction initiatives undertaken and/or continued during 2005. Fleet renewal played an important role as railways continued to replace older, polluting locomotives with newer units compliant with EPA Tier 2 standards. Sixty of these were brought into service in Canada during 2005, notes the report, each emitting 62% less NOX than locomotives not equipped with emission control technologies.

Other initiatives included the accelerated outfitting of locomotives with engine automatic stop/start devices and continued evaluation of fuel-efficient, low-emissions hybrid battery/diesel-powered switchers. Non-locomotive activities included operating improvements, an agreement between CN and CPR for shared operation on rail lines, and increased staff training emphasizing energy conservation and better train handling procedures.

More information, including the LEM program progress report, is available on the RAC Web site,

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