Utah tackles one major polluter, but encourages others

Union Pacific’s switching yard in South Salt Lake has been one of the worst sources of pollution in our area for years due to their use of the dirtiest possible locomotives. A bill (H.B. 405) moving through the Utah legislature would require railroads to convert them to emission-free hydrogen-fuel cell or battery-electric power by 2028.

Union Pacific has changed out the switcher in other areas, but has neglected to protect residents of Utah by doing so here. With our quality issues, Utah should be the first on that list. We set a precedent when we don’t put pressure on businesses to do their part to protect our public health. We can not and should not continue to allow Utah to be an emission dumping ground and cheap option for big business.

“Union Pacific owns 45 of the 63 currently operating in Utah, mostly at the three rail yards on the Wasatch Front, according to the Utah Division of Air Quality (DAQ). The busiest is the Roper Rail Yard at 650 W. Davis Road, just south of State Road 201. The cleanest locomotives available meet the Tier 4 standard, yet all of UP’s switchers in Utah are either Tier O or Tier 0-plus. Replacing such a locomotive’s powertrain with Tier 4 technology, costing about $2 million, would reduce its emissions by 89%, according to DAQ” the Salt Lake Tribune reports.

This is a great move to clean up some of the air quality along the Wasatch Front and across the state. UPHE is in support of holding massive polluters accountable and we know that Union Pacific is nowhere near short of resources to attempt to reduce their environmental and health impacts on the areas that host them.

However, the legislature turns a blind eye, or even supports other major polluting projects, like the inland port, which is also using dirty energy and bringing massive amounts of truck and train pollution to the Wasatch Front, the Uinta Basin Railway and the Tooele rail line. How dangerous do these operations need to get before our legislature starts to pay attention?

Make sure to call your State Senators and ask for their support on H.B. 405 and also on S.B. 136, which aims to reduce the impact of emissions brought in by the inland port. 

Find more information here.