December 18, 2019

Chair DeFazio, Rep. Malinowski Urge PHMSA to Conduct Thorough Safety Analysis of Transporting LNG by Rail

Washington, DC – Today, Chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Peter DeFazio (D-OR), and Congressman Tom Malinowski (D-NJ) sent a letter to the top official at the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) urging immediate action be taken to conduct a thorough analysis of the potential impacts of transporting liquefied natural gas (LNG) by rail tank car. The letter was sent in response to a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking published by PHMSA in late October.

The transport of LNG, a highly explosive and flammable substance, raises similar concerns as the transport of combustible oil on trains, but with a fuel that has much more powerful and complex hazards - including pool fires, thermal radiation, mile-wide explosions, and boiling liquid expanding vapor explosions (BLEVE). PHMSA, in coordination with the Federal Railroad Administration, has proposed a rule in late October to permit the transport of large quantities of LNG throughout the country by rail tank car. The comment period closes on December 23. This proposed rulemaking comes on the heels of an announcement made by PHMSA, less than two weeks ago, that the agency has granted a special permit to Energy Transport Solutions to move LNG from Pennsylvania to New Jersey, without appropriate research and analysis of the safety risks to communities and no opportunity for the public to address operating conditions. The special permit was issued with no regard for the repeated objections of Members of Congress, safety, and environmental groups.

“We urge you to conduct thorough analysis of risks to the public and environment, and to apply stringent protections and operational controls that provide the highest level of safety for communities if LNG is transported by rail tank car. Without such analysis and protections, any proposal to transport LNG by rail tank car should be rejected,” the Members wrote.

Full copy of the letter can be found here.

Additional Background:

June 24, 2019: The U.S. House of Representatives passed Chair DeFazio’s 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.

June 28, 2019: DeFazio and Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-NJ) 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.

August 8, 2019: DeFazio and Malinowski sent afollow-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.

December 6, 2019: DeFazio and Malinowski sent a letter to PHMSA pressing the agency on the granting of a Special Permit to transport liquified natural gas by rail tank car, despite repeated objections from Members of Congress.