Atlanta Region to Spend Federal Funds on Diesels

28 08 2008

The Atlanta region is poised to spend $36 million of its federal transportation funds on diesel locomotives owned by private rail companies so they will pollute less.

The Atlanta Regional Commission on Wednesday approved the money. Final approval now rests with the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority, which is expected to vote on the matter Sep. 10.

State regulators said they had little choice but to request spending the money on the companies, because of the setup of federal laws and regulations. The law may punish the Atlanta region for poor air quality that some of the old locomotives help cause, but it exempts rail companies from state regulation.

So the state can’t force the companies to buy cleaner engines, and has to offer the incentive of money.

Sonny Deriso, chairman of the GRTA board, said at the board’s meeting last month that before state regulators explained the situation, “we couldn’t believe that we were going to be asked to do this.”

Deriso said Wednesday he didn’t know how the board would vote, but that regulators had made “a compelling case” for spending the money. “I think this is one of those very difficult issues,” he said.

Read on here.

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