Canada Moves to Tighten Air Pollution Limits for Trains

By Peter Menyasz

June 21 — Canada proposed increasingly stringent limits on emissions of major air pollutants from trains to establish rules that would align with U.S. standards.

The regulations would affect most Canadian railways, including major national railways Canadian National Railway Co. and Canadian Pacific Railway Corp. Exceptions would apply for some small and specialty railway companies.

The proposed Locomotive Emissions Regulations, issued under the Railway Safety Act, would establish Canada's first-ever formal limits on air pollution from locomotives, replacing a memorandum of understanding between the government and the railway industry that has been in place since 1995, Transport Canada said June 18.

“Railway companies have been voluntarily meeting U.S. emission standards to the extent possible. In some cases, locomotives have been manufactured or remanufactured to meet some, but not all, of the emissions standards. As the MOU is a voluntary agreement, it is not enforceable by law,” the department said in the June 18 Canada Gazette, Part I.

The proposed regulations call for limiting emissions of so-called criteria air contaminants, including nitrogen oxides, particulate matter, hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and sulfur oxides. They also would establish standards for the opacity of smoke from rail locomotives. All the standards match the tiered approach adopted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Lowest Practical Level

The regulations also would prohibit new locomotives from releasing crankcase emissions directly to the environment; prohibit idling of locomotives for more than 30 minutes without a valid reason, such as keeping the engine from freezing; and require railways to maintain detailed records on their locomotive fleets.

“It is important to keep criteria air contaminant emissions to their lowest practical level, as rail traffic in Canada is expected to grow and many rail corridors run through heavily populated areas where air pollutant emissions are already at higher concentrations,” the department said.

The proposed regulations are open to public comment through Sept. 15. Final regulations would be published after that in the Canada Gazette, Part II, and would take effect on the date of publication.

Aligning locomotive emission standards with the U.S. would improve the efficiency of the North American transportation system, according to Transport Minister Marc Garneau. “Most importantly, these regulations will lead to environmental benefits that protect the health of Canadians and advance green technologies,” Garneau said.

The Railway Association of Canada said June 20 it was not yet prepared to comment on the proposal.


Flexibility for Small Railways

The standards would apply to all locomotives brought into service by Canadian railways. They would not apply to locomotives manufactured or remanufactured before the regulations take effect until they are removed from service for remanufacturing, refurbishing or upgrading.

The proposed regulations provide flexibility for small railway companies—those with gross annual revenues of C$30 million ($23 million) or less—by excluding remanufactured locomotives they typically use for freight services or tourist and excursion services, as well as by excluding locomotives built before 1973 unless they have since been upgraded.

Full implementation of the regulations is expected to reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides by about 79,600 metric tons and particulate matter emissions by about 1,400 metric tons during the first 10 years, Transport Canada said.

The regulations are expected to cost industry about C$162 million ($125 million) over 10 years. Total health benefits of the regulatory changes are estimated at C$245 million ($189 million) over 10 years, the department said.

The transportation sector accounted for about 56 percent of total Canadian emissions of nitrogen oxides in 2013 and 9.2 percent of all particulate matter emissions. Of the transport sector total, rail accounted for 11.1 percent of nitrogen oxides emissions and 4.6 percent of particulate matter emissions, the department said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Peter Menyasz in Ottawa at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Greg Henderson at

For More Information

The proposed regulations are available at .