The Biden Administration Strikes Again: EPA’s Move Puts Railroads in an Electric Bind
President Joe Biden’s White House is at it again, throwing its weight around in a tug-of-war over America’s railroads. This time, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has paved the way for California to force railroads to swap out their diesel-powered locomotives for electric or lower-emission options. But hold on, folks, because the Association of American Railroads is not taking this sitting down.
EPA decision pits 'Amtrak Joe' against the railroads, again https://t.co/ArpmEynODL
— Washington Examiner (@dcexaminer) November 17, 2023
The railroads are up in arms, calling out the EPA’s move as a load of baloney. They argue that the California locomotive regulation is unfair, based on bogus assumptions, and demands technology that doesn’t even exist at a viable or commercial scale (though they didn’t specify which scale they were referring to… kitchen scale, bathroom scale, or fish scale?).
On top of that, the railroads’ trade group has been duking it out in court over this very issue. But now, the EPA’s preemption waiver has given them an extra headache, making their legal battle even tougher. California’s Democratic Attorney General, Rob Bonta, is swooping in for the kill, seeking to boot the railroads’ lawsuit courtesy of the Biden administration’s latest move.
Up until now, federal law had the upper hand when it came to state railroad emission regulations, citing reasons of interstate commerce. The feds had their say in most railroad regulations, including emissions, and had made it clear that it needed to happen at the big ol’ federal level. But lo and behold, the EPA’s waiver is lining up with the Biden administration’s grand plan to slash carbon emissions and shift American vehicles from gas guzzlers to electric rides.
The railroads are hollering that they’re already cleaner than a whistle compared to other options, like big rigs on the open road. They’re waving their arms in frustration, warning that if they’re shackled with more regulations, it’ll be a punch in the gut for businesses and consumers across the land.
Attorney General Bonta is not backing down, though. He’s telling the court, “Hey Judge, take a gander at these spicy facts.” He’s pointing to the Pacific Harbor Line, which has landed itself a brand spanking new battery-electric choo-choo for testing and actual use. And guess what? The Sierra Northern Railway scored a sweet $15.6 million to convert their diesel locomotives to run on hydrogen. Beat that, diesel!
But the cherry on top of this ruckus is that this fight is just getting warmed up. Oral arguments are itching to happen on January 9, and you can bet your bottom dollar that it’s going to be a full-blown showdown.
And did you know? President Joe Biden, before he took his current gig, was a Democratic senator for a whopping 36 years. They called him “Amtrak Joe” because he’d hop on the train back and forth from Delaware like it was nobody’s business. Yeah, he was a centrist Democrat, and the railroads had their fingers crossed that he’d be their buddy, not their enemy. But alas, their hope got sucker-punched when Biden lent a hand to stave off a major railroad strike last year. The railroads were left scratching their heads because the very people Biden appointed to the National Mediation Board seemed to have lit the match that led to the bonfire in the first place.
The railroads are crying foul, bashing the EPA’s call as a wild goose chase. “This policy flouts the need for consistent federal standards,” they jeer. It’s like adding insult to injury or pouring salt on a wound, or throwing fuel on, well, a fire… you get the drift.
And that’s not even all of it. There’s a sneaky suspicion that other states might jump on California’s bandwagon, much like Oregon and Washington have done on COVID-19 lockdown coordination and phasing out certain new car sales. It’s a carnival of conflicts between the railroads and the Biden administration, and the EPA’s decision might just be a sign that the White House has no plans to call a truce as the election spotlight draws near.
It seems like we’ve got a political rodeo, folks, and the bulls are raring to go. So saddle up, grab your popcorn, and get ready for the bumpy ride ahead!