September 13, 2019

As the Trump Administration Attempts to Fast-Track Authorization to Move LNG by Rail Tank Car, Chair DeFazio and Rep. Malinowski Introduce New Legislation to Study the Risks and Provide Much-Needed Transparency

Washington, DC – Chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Congressman Tom Malinowski (D-NJ) introduced H.R. 4306, legislation requiring a comprehensive review into the transport of liquified natural gas (LNG) by rail tank car within the United States.

On April 10, 2019, President Donald Trump issued an executive order directing the Secretary of the Department of Transportation (DOT) to authorize the movement of LNG in rail tank cars within 13 months. On June 6, 2019, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) took steps to allow LNG to move by rail tank car despite having little information about the possible risks to local communities. 

“The administration’s absurd plan to allow trains of up to 100 cars filled with LNG to move by rail is extremely reckless,” said DeFazio. “I, along with Congressman Malinowski, have been sounding the alarm on this plan for months. Putting LNG into rail cars and moving it through highly populated communities presents a significant risk to the safety of the public and the environment, with the possibility of catastrophic consequences. Our legislation ensures full disclosure, thorough scientific analysis of risks before the administration can move forward with their proposal.”

“Any movement of liquefied natural gas in our country should be closely monitored, with the highest possible safety measures in place, particularly through a densely populated state like New Jersey. The proposed movement of LNG by freight rail companies that are running longer and longer trains with fewer and fewer engineers presents substantial safety risks to communities through which trains pass. A Fire Chief in my District recently told me that a railcar spill involving LNG would require him to evacuate his entire town of nearly 15,000 people. This bill will ensure that the safety and environmental risks of LNG by rail are thoroughly evaluated, with due consideration of route, speed, brake, and personnel requirements,” said Malinowski.

This legislation requires FRA and PHMSA to conduct extensive safety testing of rail tank cars to determine whether existing cars are suitable for the safe movement of LNG, requires the agencies to consider operating conditions and benefits to the public and environment, and upon completion of these examinations, requires the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to conduct an independent evaluation to ensure all review requirements have been satisfactorily met. 

On June 24, 2019, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a DeFazio amendment to H.R. 3055, which would prohibit the Secretary of Transportation from finalizing a rulemaking and issuing a special permit to allow the transportation of LNG by rail tank car.

On June 28, 2019, DeFazio and Malinowski sent a letter to PHMSA requesting additional information and an extension of the public comment period on the special permit to ensure transparency in the process. While PHMSA responded and agreed to extend the comment period and provided some information, it did not fully comply with the Members’ requests. On August 7, 2019, DeFazio and Malinowski sent a follow-up letter requesting that PHMSA comply with the statutory requirements for authorizing a special permit by disclosing adequate information and questioning the rationale for moving forward with a special permit without conducting a proper safety analysis.