U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) yesterday questioned whether the nation’s four largest Class Is are committed to combating climate change. In a Jan. 16 letter to Association of American Railroads (AAR) President and Chief Executive Officer Ian Jefferies, DeFazio asked for additional information in response to a magazine article about the railroads’ position on climate change. The Dec. 13 article in The Atlantic indicated the four largest U.S. Class Is — BNSF Railway Co., Norfolk Southern Railway, Union Pacific Railroad and CSX — have been “major players in the climate-denial movement,” DeFazio’s letter stated. Although the railroads have cast themselves as stewards of the environment, they have invested millions of dollars to discredit climate science and oppose federal climate legislation, the lawmaker wrote. “These four railroads are members of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, which in 2014 called climate change a ‘hypothesis’ and claimed that carbon dioxide is 400 times more beneficial to the population than it is harmful,” the letter stated.
“If indeed members of AAR ‘joined or funded groups that attacked individual scientists, cast doubt on scientific consensus, and rejected reports from major scientific institutions,’ such actions are extremely troubling.” In his letter, DeFazio asked Jefferies if the information in the article is true, adding: “And if so, how can your organization continue to tout the environmental benefits of freight railroads while these same railroads are funding organizations who deny climate change?” Asked for a comment, an AAR spokeswoman said in an email that the association will respond to DeFazio directly “in short order.” However, she also said that railroads are committed to a “greener future,” and have taken numerous steps to reduce their carbon footprint in light of climate change. “Those efforts include deploying low emissions equipment and idle reduction technologies, increasing fuel efficiency by using fuel management systems, and many more initiatives,” the spokeswoman said. “If we hope to meet the nation’s growing freight demands and combat climate change, rail is essential to our path forward.”