Sunday, December 14, 2014

“Maine Leads?” Not always in the best ways, Pilgrim.


Maine’s state motto is ‘Dirigo,’ which we’re told, means “Maine Leads.”  Shirley most of the time we choose to take this in the best possible sense.  But the word ‘leads’ in and of itself is neither negative or positive.  It’s quite possible to lead in embarrassing ways, such as leading in property tax levies, which is not an honor to be sought or bragged about, at least in our humble view.

Friends of ours with great curiosity recently came upon a ‘consent decree’ that relates to diesel engine idling and operating in the nearby great state of Massachusetts, which is one of the states that our very own Downeaster operates in.  The material below, taken from a US EPA web site, summarizes the decree. 

Emphasis is ours, and we use it to highlight the reference to a federally enforceable state regulation, which seems to be the crux of the decree.  Apparently Maine has no such regulation, and at least in this case, “Massachusetts Leads.”

We can’t help but wonder why NNEPRA and other concerned authorities, all of whom tout the great benefits of the Downeaster in getting filthy polluting autos off our byways and highways, haven’t pressed for such a regulation.  Or taken it upon themselves to voluntarily behave as if we did have one, without being told to do so.

This seems like a perfect opportunity for someone in state government to grab the bull by the tail and face the situation, as we often say.  Anyone who successfully does so will earn a “Maine Catches Up” award from Other Side.  And earn the undying gratitude of many in the process.

For the nonce, we wonder whether NNEPRA could have exposure in this matter on the basis of federal guidelines and regulations alone, and whether relevant Environmental Assessments and other efforts in the past somehow ignored these factors.  Only The Shadow knows, wherever he is.


MBTA to Spend Millions to Reduce Commuter Train Emissions in Clean Air Act Settlement

Release Date: 08/04/2010
Contact Information: EPA, David Deegan, (617) 918-1017 DOJ, (202) 514-2007

Joint News Release
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, New England Regional Office
Department of Justice

(Boston, Mass. – Aug. 4, 2010) – In response to a federal enforcement action for excessive train engine idling, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) and the Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad Company (MBCR) will spend more than $2 million to reduce diesel locomotive emissions throughout the MBTA’s commuter rail system, the Justice Department and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced today.

Under a consent decree lodged in federal court, MBTA and MBCR will spend over $1 million on anti-idling equipment at all end-of-line stations and maintenance facilities, and will spend another $1 million on ultra-clean diesel fuel for all trains in the commuter rail system for two years.

These emission-reducing measures are the result of a federal enforcement action brought by the Justice Department on behalf of EPA in response to MBTA’s and MBCR’s excessive locomotive idling at the Widett Circle layover facility in South Boston and the Greenbush line station in Scituate, Mass. Neighboring residents have complained of excessive train idling at both locations.
To settle the enforcement action, MBTA and MBCR will:

- Install or upgrade electric plug-in stations as anti-idling equipment to supply all commuter locomotives with electric auxiliary power to prevent excess idling during train layovers;
- Switch to cleaner burning, ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel for all trains on the MBTA’s commuter rail lines for a two year period at an estimated cost of $1 million;
- Install new, less polluting auxiliary engines on fourteen commuter locomotives by no later than December 2012; and
- Pay a $225,000 fine.

The anti-idling measures, clean diesel fuel switch, and new auxiliary engines required by the federal settlement will have significant clean air benefits. For example, a reduction in commuter locomotive idling by even one hour per day per locomotive, together with the fuel switch and new engines, could result in yearly carbon dioxide emission reductions of an estimated 800 tons, nitrogen oxides reductions of nearly 170 tons, carbon monoxide reductions of about 80 tons, particulate reductions of 23 tons, and sulfur dioxide reductions of 1-2 tons.

MBTA owns 80 commuter locomotives used on 13 commuter rail routes in Eastern Massachusetts. Since 2003, MBCR has managed and operated the commuter train system for the MBTA. The system includes 14 layover facilities where the locomotives and passenger cars are parked and serviced between runs. Electric plug-in stations at these facilities supply the trains with electric power for lights and ventilation. If a plug-in is not available, a train on layover idles its auxiliary diesel engine to supply any needed electric power.

Under today’s settlement, which must be approved by the court, commuter train layovers will only be allowed at locations where there are sufficient electric plug-in stations for all trains.

The Massachusetts locomotive idling regulation, a federally-enforceable state regulation, prohibits all unnecessary diesel locomotive idling for more than 30 minutes. According to a 2008 notice of violation issued by EPA, MBTA and MBCR committed 33 violations of this regulation at Widett Circle and Greenbush in three months. At Widett, the average idling time during the violations was just under four hours (234 minutes).

“This precedent-setting, multi-million dollar settlement for train idling is appropriate in light of the defendants’ conduct,” said Ignacia S. Moreno, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division. “The settlement will provide immediate and lasting environmental benefits to the residents of Eastern Massachusetts, particularly those in environmental justice communities.”

“It is imperative that anti-idling laws are followed, given the proximity of these layover facilities to densely-populated communities and environmental justice neighborhoods,” said Curt Spalding, regional administrator of EPA’s New England Office. “Diesel pollution can be very harmful, especially to sensitive populations such as the young, elderly and people who suffer from asthma.”

Diesel emissions contribute to a number of serious air pollution problems such as smog, acid rain and increased carbon concentrations in the atmosphere. Diesel exhaust contains fine particles that can cause lung damage and aggravate respiratory conditions, such as asthma and bronchitis. Based upon human and laboratory studies, there is also considerable evidence that diesel exhaust is a likely carcinogen.

Since 2002, EPA has brought more than a dozen federal enforcement cases to stop diesel engine idling violations in Mass., Conn. and R.I. Most of the cases have involved diesel truck and bus idling, including a judicial settlement announced in July 2010 against National Car Rental for shuttle bus idling at two airports. Only Massachusetts and Rhode Island have federally-enforceable locomotive idling regulations, and today’s action marks the first time EPA and DOJ have sued a railroad for excessive idling violations.

More information:
The consent decree, lodged in the U.S. District Court, will be subject to a 30-day public comment period and approval by the federal court. Once it is published in the Federal Register, a copy of the consent decree and instructions on how to comment will be available on the Justice Department Web site at (
Fact Sheet on MBTA Settlement:

Diesel exhaust and anti-idling guidelines (


The above materials are found here:!OpenDocument&Highlight=2,national,car,rental

See also, which contains these words:


  • Diesel exhaust contains fine particles which can aggravate asthma and cause lung damage as well as premature death. Diesel Engines last a long time (20-30 years).
  • EPA has classified diesel particulate matter as a likely human carcinogen.
  • All six New England states have childhood asthma rates above 10 percent.

What is EPA Doing?

To reduce diesel pollution and help ensure that New Englanders have cleaner air, EPA has set stringent emission standards for new diesel engines and diesel fuel. These national standards reduce diesel pollution from new diesel engines by 90 percent. To reduce diesel pollution from existing diesel engines, EPA is implementing voluntary local and regional initiatives. In addition, EPA is encouraging schools, businesses, institutions and communities to develop anti-idling policies.

Since 2002, more than 10,000 engines operating in New England have been or are being retrofitted with pollution control technology.

We’re not subject matter experts, but we recall hearing over the last few years that the engines pulling the much beloved Downeasters are not retrofitted with pollution control technology as referred to here.  That would mean NNEPRA is “voluntarily” not implementing the cleaner air initiative.  But we’ll look to involved officials to correct us if we’re wrong.

Having spent a number of hours within hundreds of feet of idling Downeasters, if they have been retrofitted, the technology, in a word, sucks.

We hear so often that Maine is all about ‘pristine environments,’ so we ask ‘where’s the beef?’  Or for those readers so inclined, ‘where’s the kale?’

On the other side of the ball, there are known ailments caused by breathing too deeply and too purely, as certain local residents remind us from time to time.


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