EPA Awards "Clean Diesel" Grant to SEPTA

December 9, 2011

SEPTA To Repower Locomotive With Emissions-Reducing Technology

Yesterday, SEPTA received a $1.2 million grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to significantly reduce air emissions from one of its six diesel-powered maintenance locomotives. The repower project will give the locomotive, originally built in the 1950s, a new lease on life with a state-of-the-art engine technology.

The grant, funded through the EPA's National Clean Diesel Campaign, represents a milestone in SEPTA's efforts to improve criteria air pollutant and greenhouse gas emissions performance through its Sustainability Program. SEPTA already boasts the only fully electrified commuter railroad in the United States, a fact that plays an important role in improving regional air quality by offsetting localized emissions. This grant award will extend emissions-reducing strategies to SEPTA's remaining diesel-powered vehicles, such as maintenance locomotives. EPA awarded $50 million in "Clean Diesel" grants nationwide - SEPTA's award was EPA's eighth largest.

The public health benefits of cleaner air are particularly important in Philadelphia, the nation's fifth largest city and one that in 2007 ranked second worst for asthma suffers by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Repowering the locomotive, which is stored in SEPTA's rail yard adjacent to the Germantown/Nicetown section of Philadelphia, will particularly benefit a portion of Philadelphia where the median income and household value are well below the state average and where more than 20 percent of the population is unemployed. SEPTA has also invested more than $30 million in the nearby Wayne Junction Station, where extensive neighborhood revitalization efforts are underway.

For the engine technology, SEPTA selected what is known as an ultra-low emitting "dual GenSet" with diesel particulate filter, which will improve the locomotive's fuel economy and emissions performance by providing power on an as-needed basis. For this reason, GenSets are particularly useful for maintenance "switching activities" in and around rail yards, where the locomotive often must operate at idle. In addition, the diesel particulate filter will virtually eliminate particulate matter emissions from the locomotive. Ultimately, the repower will also reduce noise pollution wherever the locomotive operates, an additional benefit for surrounding communities.

  • "Switcher-style," referring to locomotives used for moving or reassembling trains
  • Built in the 1950s
  • Rebuilt in 1987 at higher horsepower (1200 HP)
  • New prime mover package installed in 1999 to increase horsepower to 1500 HP
  • Engine currently has more than 52,000 hours of operation
  • Responsibilities include: maintenance & repair of tracks & catenary; rail cleaning; rescuing disabled passenger trains; and "shop-shifting" (moving trains into and out of repair shops)

SEPTA's project was endorsed by both the City of Philadelphia's Air Management Services (AMS) and Mayor's Office of Sustainability. In its letter of support, AMS recognized the critical role that SEPTA plays in improving Philadelphia's air quality and its commitment to work with SEPTA on shared environmental objectives. For its part, the Office of Sustainability cited SEPTA's role as a committed stakeholder in the City's goal to transform Philadelphia into the "greenest city in America."

From SEPTA's perspective, the project reflects the economic, social, and environmental impact of the organization's commitment to sustainability. The strong show of support from local and federal partners demonstrates the importance of collaborating to achieve shared objectives. And focusing benefits in a community where SEPTA is already investing significant resources ensures that the project will support renewal efforts already underway. It is a classic sustainability initiative, and an approach that SEPTA will look to replicate through its Sustainability Program in the years to come.

Read The Press Releases:

SEPTA General Manager Joseph M. Casey Receives $1.2 Million Check from EPA

Emissions-Reduction Benefits from SEPTA's Clean Diesel Project

Baseline (Tons/Year) 87.80 1.84 4.71 15.13 174.20 15,694
Percent Reduced 80% 93% 95% 90% 40% 40%
Amount Reduced (Tons/Year) 70.24 1.71 4.50 13.62 69.68 6,278