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PSR Opposes LNG-by-Rail

Photo: Andrew Aliferis / CC BY-ND-NC 2.0

By Barbara Gottlieb

PSR opposes the Trump Administration’s reckless proposal to allow liquefied natural gas (LNG) to be hauled by train. If such a train were to derail, the result could be a “gas bomb”—a fire so intense that emergency responders could not put it out.

Yet the Trump Administration wants to give LNG-by-rail a green light. Under a permit application now under consideration by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), trains of up to 100 cars, all carrying highly flammable, potentially explosive, super-pressurized fracked gas, would roll through American cities, towns and countryside at speeds up to 50 miles an hour.

PSR has submitted comments to PHMSA stating our opposition and detailing why the proposal is dangerous and reckless. A warm thanks to the 12 PSR chapters and the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments for signing onto the comments—and a special thanks to all the PSR members who submitted individual comments.

You can read PSR’s common-sense, health-focused comments here. An outline of our arguments appears below.

The LNG-by-rail project comes in response to President Trump’s April 19 “Executive Order on Promoting Energy Infrastructure and Economic Growth,” designed to expedite faster approval of fossil fuel infrastructure projects and encourage new investment in fossil fuels.

That runs completely counter to the direction our country needs to go:  a rapid transition to clean, safe renewable energy sources and greater implementation of energy efficiency.

PSR’s key points in opposing LNG-by-rail are:

  1. The trains and the tank cars being proposed to carry LNG by train have not been demonstrated to be safe for this purpose.
  • The permit would authorize unit trains (trains carrying a single commodity) of up to 100 cars, made up of the heaviest tank cars allowed.
  • These long, heavy unit trains would be authorized to travel at a speed of 50 miles per hour – higher than the speed recommended for trains carrying hazardous cargoes.
  • The tank cars that would make up these heavy and fast-moving trains were not designed for LNG transit. No rail tank car standards for transport of LNG have been established.  No permit should be approved without specific regulations in place for LNG tank cars.
  1. In case of an accident, LNG-by-rail can cause catastrophic fires and explosions.
  • The permit would allow LNG unit trains to pass through densely populated cities and suburbs.
  • If an LNG tank car is caught in a fire and engulfed by external flames, a bomb-like explosion can result.  First responders would be unable to control and contain the resulting fire.
  • LNG trains would be vulnerable to terrorist attack.
  1. LNG-by-rail builds demand for fracked gas. That is life-threatening.
  • The permit being requested for LNG-by-rail would deliver LNG to export facilities, thus driving international demand for fracked gas. Fracking harms human health; fracked gas drives climate change.
  • Natural gas is primarily methane, and methane is a terribly potent greenhouse gas. Methane leaks into the atmosphere across the entire natural gas supply chain.
  • Investing in LNG postpones our society’s highly necessary transition to clean, safe renewable energy sources.

Our comments address the (inadequate) environmental assessment now before PHMSA. We will have another opportunity when a final permit application is put forward for public comment. Stay tuned; I hope you’ll join us then to continue opposing this perilous proposal.