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Blames Them for Medical Problems of Commerce, Carson and Downtown Los Angeles Residents.

The Natural Resources Defense Council’s has sued the two major railroads operating in Los Angeles, alleging that diesel pollution from their trains is causing health problems for residents living near the yards.
The complaint, filed in Los Angeles federal court, seeks to hold Union Pacific Railroad and Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Co. accountable for what it contends are medical problems suffered by those living near rail yards in Carson, Commerce and downtown Los Angeles.

The lawsuit seeks to prove harm and force the railroads to clean up the rail yards. Research shows diesel pollution is linked to cancer, asthma, and other respiratory and heart conditions, according to the litigants. Groups suing include East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice, and the Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice.

The suit represents “hundreds of thousands of Californians” who live near the state’s 17 railyards. Some of these people live in Commerce and East Los Angeles and, according to the NRDC press release, have been severely affected by railyard pollution.

The litigants argue that the railroad companies have long disregarded the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, RCRA. Under this act, “if you are a company and you release toxic pollution, you are required to either eliminate or reduce it so that public health is not at risk.
Omaha, Nebraska-based Union Pacific maintains that the railroad is in compliance with state and federal regulations and recently received a Clean Air Excellence Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.  Texas-based BNSF, characterized the suit as one of a series of attacks on “the goods movement industry,” and said the railroad has successfully reduced emissions and purchased new, cleaner locomotives. They have spent millions of dollars to ensure that their railroads are environmentally friendly.

Before suing, NRDC attorneys gave the railroad companies 90 days to reduce harmful pollutants. Methods included using locomotives, trucks and equipment that meet stringent EPA emission standards, such as electric vehicles; adopting idling control devices and prohibiting idling near residences, and fleet modernization. However, “no progress was made or any good faith effort on behalf of UP or BNSF to address the pollutants,” according to NRDC. (EGP News, 10/19/2011)