There is light at the end of the tunnel.

But right now an attempt to limit emissions of idling freight trains in southern California remains a violation of federal law. 

This was the ruling in U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals this week, where the court upheld a previous decision claiming that the South Coast Air Quality District’s regulation of idling trains violated the 1995 Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act.

Because the freight trains that travel through Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino and Riverside counties carry goods that will travel through other states, the court argues regulating them is up to the feds.

In the short term, this is a loss that will be taken particularly hard by environmentalists in the region. An L.A. Times article points out that “diesel exhaust from trains and trucks is blamed for high cancer rates in several cities along the corridor,” and that 2,100 deaths a year can be attributed to the freight train, boat and truck industry in southern California.”

As for the light in the tunnel, it came when judges reiterated that local enforcement of air pollution laws would be allowed if the laws were approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The EPA approval track provides those concerned with the pollution in southern California with some hope, but not a ton. The EPA’s power seems to be facing new challenges every day. But the longer those powers survive, the longer those breathing in southern California have light at the end of the tunnel.

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