NYSERDA and DEC Partner with Short Line Railroads in Utica and Cooperstown to Decrease Diesel Use and Pollution

The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) have partnered with two short line railroad companies to help them decrease fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions by keeping locomotive engines warm overnight in cold weather without idling. The projects advance the State’s goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent by 2030 under Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) strategy.

With support from NYSERDA and DEC, the two short line rail companies – Mohawk Adirondack and Northern Railroad of Utica, and New York, Susquehanna and Western Railway of Cooperstown – invested in water-heating auxiliary power units, or APUs, that heat and circulate water to keep the locomotive warm while the train is parked outside overnight.

Keeping the engines warm is necessary during the winter to maintain battery life and ensure a smooth start the next day. The units, when activated due to low temperatures, continually pump and warm the locomotive radiator fluid. The APUs replace the practice of running large diesel locomotive engines throughout the night, and will reduce overnight fuel consumption and emissions by up to 80 percent.

Funding was provided through NYSERDA from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) and from DEC’s Diesel Reduction Program.

NYSERDA President and CEO John B. Rhodes said, “Transportation makes up a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions in New York State, and reducing unnecessary fuel use is imperative to address climate change. As we advance Governor Cuomo’s REV strategy across industry segments, this approach to reduce locomotive idling will protect the environment and lower business expenses for the railroads.”

“Idling diesel engines produce unnecessary particulate matter, greenhouse gases and toxic air contaminants, and DEC is proud to help advance projects like this to reduce public exposure to diesel emissions,” said Acting DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. “This technology for short line diesel locomotives improves air quality for the communities surrounding these locations and saves fuel cost for the companies, and is yet another example of the importance of Governor Cuomo’s REV program, and the benefits that occur when government and business work together to achieve environmental goals.”

Anti-idling technology is more commonly found on locomotives owned by large freight haulers, and is also used by tractor-trailer trucks. Due to limited funds, smaller companies such as short lines have been more reluctant to install the generators, which cost between $25,000 and $30,000 each. These projects will demonstrate the financial benefits of this technology to encourage similar investments by other small railroad companies.

An anti-idling generator is estimated to pay for itself through fuel savings in less than two years as they limit greenhouse gas emissions in the meantime. Today’s announcement supports short line railroads as they begin to transition to more modern and efficient locomotives in an effort to both lower their carbon emissions and their costs.

Greg Cheshier, vice president of operations, Mohawk Adirondack and Northern Railroad, said, “The Mohawk Adirondack and Northern Railroad is pleased to have been the recipient of the NYSERDA/DEC award to help install APUs on two of its locomotives. The APUs will allow MHWA more flexibility in locomotive assignments along with saving fuel and lessening pollutants.”

Melanie Boyer, manager, government and public relations, New York, Susquehanna and Western Railway, said, “The New York, Susquehanna and Western Railway is happy to have this opportunity to partner with NYSERDAand DEC to install this important technology that allows the railroad to operate cleaner and with greater fuel efficiency.”

This project complements work in development under NYSERDA’s Clean Energy Fund to accelerate the movement toward an energy-efficient transportation system that enhances the quality of life in communities. The transportation sector accounts for 40 percent of the fossil fuel carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in New York State.

In New York State, 33 short line railroads operate on approximately half of the state’s 1,600-mile rail network. For large areas of rural and small-town America, short line railroads are the only way shippers can stay connected to the national railroad network, helping businesses and employment remain local, according to the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association.

About the short line railroad companies

  • The Mohawk Adirondack and Northern Railroad runs on 124 miles of track in New York’s Mohawk Valley and Western Adirondacks. The company transports steel products, stones and ore, chemicals, edible oils, fertilizers, plastic, forest products and other goods. The railroad has installed two anti-idling engines on its locomotives.
  • The New York, Susquehanna and Western Railway operates over 450 miles of track in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, serving 100 customers and transporting commodities such as feed ingredients, building materials, plastics, automobiles, steel and aggregates. The company has installed four anti-idling engines on its locomotives.

About Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI)

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) is the nation’s first program to use an innovative market-based mechanism to cap and cost-effectively reduce the carbon dioxide emissions that cause the climate to change, and New York State took a leadership role in adopting regulations that lowered the emissions cap. Emissions from power plants in New York State are down approximately 45 percent since 2005 and auction proceeds from sale of the RGGI allowances have reduced electricity expenditures and created thousands of green energy sector jobs.

About Reforming the Energy Vision

Reforming the Energy Vision is New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s strategy to build a cleaner, more resilient and affordable energy system for all New Yorkers. REV places clean, locally produced power at the core of New York’s energy system which protects the environment and supports the State’s goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent while generating 50 percent of its electricity from renewable energy sources by 2030. Successful initiatives already launched as part of REV include NY-Sun, NY Green Bank, NY Prize, K-Solar, and includes a commitment to improve energy affordability for low-income communities. To learn more about REV, please visit www.ny.gov/REV4NY or follow us at @Rev4NY.


NYSERDA, a public benefit corporation, offers objective information and analysis, innovative programs, technical expertise, and funding to help New Yorkers increase energy efficiency, save money, use renewable energy, and reduce reliance on fossil fuels. NYSERDA professionals work to protect the environment and create clean-energy jobs. NYSERDA has been developing partnerships to advance innovative energy solutions in New York State since 1975. To learn more about NYSERDA’s programs and funding opportunities, visit nyserda.ny.gov or follow us on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, or Instagram.

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