Utah, Union Pacific reach deal: Clean switcher engine bill put on hold


An engine on the Union Pacific Roper yard in South Salt Lake is pictured on Feb. 22. Utah lawmakers and Union Pacific look like working by some contentious points, legislators say. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret Information)

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SALT LAKE CITY — It seems the railroad big Union Pacific and Utah lawmakers are taking part in good once more.

After a dust-up final week — when a Home legislative chief accused Union Pacific of being an unwilling and uncooperative associate in air high quality efforts and fast-tracked a invoice to pressure the corporate to maneuver to cleaner switchers by 2028 — the identical legislator is pushing pause on the invoice.

Home Majority Chief Mike Schultz, R-Hooper, requested the Senate Transportation, Public Utilities, Vitality, and Expertise Committee to carry HB405 on Tuesday, citing now “productive” conversations with Union Pacific.

He learn a letter during which Union Pacific pledged to take away three of its 40 “tier 0” switchers, or railroad locomotives used to maneuver rail vehicles inside a rail yard, from the Roper Rail Yard in Salt Lake Metropolis by the center of the yr. The corporate stated it might substitute them with 4 “tier 2” locomotives, which can assist scale back air pollution within the space, Schultz stated.

Union Pacific has additionally “agreed to work” with lawmakers and “enter right into a partnership” to carry “tier 4” or cleaner locomotive switcher expertise for the Roper Rail Yard, Schultz stated. Moreover, the corporate has “expressed willingness” to check some new electrical expertise in container motion expertise “over the subsequent yr or two.”

“We’ll need to work out what these particulars are, however my understanding is there is a chunk of cash from the federal authorities that would assist offset that so the fee to the state should not be too important,” Schultz instructed the Senate committee.

Schultz’s request to carry the invoice relieves the stress on Union Pacific. HB405, which the Utah Home authorised with none dissenting votes, would have required rail yards which have 4 or extra switchers to energy these switchers “wholly by a hydrogen gasoline cell or electrical energy” by no later than Jan. 1, 2028.

The invoice particularly focused Union Pacific’s Roper Rail Yard, which has “produced sufficient emissions that’s basically equal to I-15 at rush hour” due to its over 40 switchers that use decades-old, “tier 0” expertise, College of Utah atmospheric scientist Dr. Daniel Mendoza instructed lawmakers in a committee listening to final week.

Union Pacific is among the largest “level sources” or highest concentrated sources of air pollution in Salt Lake County, Mendoza stated, noting that these switchers need to idle 24/7 in winter months to stop the engine blocks from freezing or cracking.

Schultz took purpose at Union Pacific, criticizing the corporate for seeing its largest revenue yr in 2021 — raking in $6.5 billion — whereas making an attempt new expertise for freight switchers in different states like California and Nebraska however not Utah, despite the fact that elements of the state stay nonattainment areas underneath the EPA.

Schultz stated for years Utah lawmakers together with Rep. Steve Useful, R-Layton, have tried to work with Union Pacific for years, however conversations have amounted to nothing.

He additionally stated the corporate tried to strong-arm him this yr, telling him if he did not drop considered one of his different payments (HB181, which he stated seeks to stop Union Pacific from “holding hostage” widening of roads round railroad crossings by refusing to pay for upkeep of these crossings), “that they might not transfer ahead on these discussions with regard to freight switchers and a number of the different issues within the state.”

“And so I’m fairly disheartened, truthfully, about their willingness to have interaction on this,” Schultz stated final week.

However Tuesday, Schultz indicated the strain between himself and Union Pacific has eased.

“I simply need to thank Union Pacific for having these discussions and making the commitments they’ve made up to now,” he stated. “We look ahead to having these discussions and coming into into some contracts over the interim to cut back the emissions that is coming from the Roper Rail yard.”

Schultz then requested the Senate committee to carry the invoice.

“If we have to proceed speaking about it throughout interim we positive can, however I like the place it is going,” he stated. “I feel Union Pacific’s willingness to have an sincere, open dialogue and work collectively to handle the issues, I feel is greatest for the state.”

Sen. Jake Anderegg, R-Lehi, thanked the corporate for its cooperation.

“My expertise with Union Pacific is it is taken some time, however you guys have turn out to be way more engaged and lively in working by issues,” Anderegg stated. “I additionally perceive these switchers are tremendous costly items of kit, and it is actually laborious to transition. So the willingness to take action, figuring out that it will be an expense to you guys, is kind of actually a very good present of religion in your aspect.”

The committee adjourned with out taking motion on the invoice, successfully abandoning it for the 2022 Legislative session that ends on Friday at midnight.

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