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Biden May Allow Costly, Unnecessary Train Regulations to Drive Up Consumer Prices

Biden's EPA could let California's stringent train rules hike national prices, burdening consumers with the cost of an unproven tech transition.

Amid the ongoing struggle with inflation, the Biden administration’s latest maneuver could usher in another wave of price increases for Americans. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is currently considering a waiver request from California that seeks to enforce stringent new regulations on freight trains, a move that could harm consumers nationwide.

California, under Governor Gavin Newsom’s leadership, aims to implement regulations that surpass the existing national Clean Air Act standards. The proposed rule mandates a significant overhaul of the freight train industry, requiring that by 2030, any train operating within the state must not be older than 23 years—a stark contrast to the typical 40-year lifespan of locomotives. Furthermore, by the same year, half of all trains must be zero-emission, with the requirement tightening to include all trains by 2035.

This transition from diesel to electric trains poses an enormous financial burden, estimated to cost nearly a billion dollars annually per train company. The challenge is compounded by the fact that the technology for fully battery-powered freight trains, capable of handling the load and environmental conditions trains routinely face, does not yet exist.

The implications of California’s ambitious rail regulation are far-reaching and immediate. Trains routinely cross state lines without switching engines, meaning that train fleets would need to undergo a nationwide overhaul to comply with California’s age restrictions on locomotives. As a result, nearly all freight train companies, a majority of which operate within California, would be compelled to allocate substantial funds towards the transition, despite the current lack of viable electric alternatives.

The knock-on effect on consumer prices could be significant. Freight trains are responsible for transporting 40% of long-haul freight traffic, making them a critical component of the supply chain. The forced investment in unproven and expensive technology will inevitably lead to higher transportation costs, which will be passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices for goods.

The Biden administration has the option to reject California’s waiver request, maintaining the current national standards that already ensure freight trains do not significantly impact air quality or pose other health risks. Such a decision would signal a willingness to prioritize economic stability and consumer welfare over adherence to impractical environmental targets.

At a time when China continues to expand its coal-fired power capacity, California’s zero-emission mandate for the transportation sector seems not only unrealistic but inconsequential on a global scale. The administration’s response to this waiver request will be telling, offering a glimpse into whether it can put practical considerations and the well-being of American consumers above the demands of the radical environmentalist agenda.

American Coalition

American Coalition

The American Coalition operates as a 501(c)(4) non-profit organization, as amended, created by Americans who have tired of the ever-growing assault on the foundation of our entire way of life.