By Nick Goldstein, vice president of regulatory affairs & assistant general counsel, ARTBA

ARTBA is raising “serious concerns” about proposed Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) cost-benefit guidelines that include a requirement to estimate the financial impact of carbon emissions.

A financial analysis for railroad capital projects is mandated by the 2015 “Fixing America’s Surface Transportation” (FAST) Act reauthorization law. FRA’s proposal, however, also includes a section on the “social cost of carbon” (SCC), which is “an estimate of the monetized damages associated with an incremental increase in carbon in any given year.” It was developed in 2010 by a group of 13 federal agencies, including the U.S. Department of Transportation.  Applying the SCC to rail projects could add a new layer to the regulatory decision-making process and lead to project delays.

In Aug. 1 comments to the agency, ARTBA warned that including SCC in the cost-benefit guidance is beyond the scope of the FRA’s authority, noting Congress declined to include such greenhouse gas measures in the FAST Act. ARTBA also cautioned that “SCC as a measurement needs to be further defined before it is used in this (or any other) guidance and/or regulation.”

Read the comments.