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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

USDOT rolls out LNG-by-rail rule

U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao
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The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) is moving ahead with a proposal to allow liquefied natural gas (LNG) to be moved by rail in DOT-113 tank cars.

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), in coordination with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), announced late last week that it will publish a notice of proposed rulemaking to allow LNG to be transported by rail tank car.

The proposed rule is a result of President Donald Trump's executive order, issued in April, that called on U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao to fast-track a process that would allow LNG to be moved through the United States in rail tank cars within 13 months.

Currently, LNG may be transported by rail only in a portable tank with an approval from FRA.

USDOT's process prioritizes safety as well as supporting economic benefits of additional transportation options for American energy resources, department officials said in a press release.

Moving LNG by rail is a potentially viable alternative to pipelines, which are not always able to meet the demand of, or reach, certain areas in the U.S. that are accessible by rail, USDOT officials said.

“This major rule will establish a safe, reliable and durable mode of transportation for LNG, while substantially increasing economic benefits and our nation’s energy competitiveness in the global market," said PHMSA Administrator Skip Elliott.

FRA shares regulatory oversight for safe transportation of hazardous materials by rail.

“This [LNG] rulemaking is consistent with our systemic approach to accident prevention, mitigation and emergency response preparedness,"said FRA Administrator Ronald Batory.

Meanwhile, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) slammed the Trump administration for moving ahead on the LNG-by-rail rulemaking.

Fast-tracking a rule that would allow moving LNG in "old tank cars without sufficient testing, analysis or reviews poses major risks to the health and safety of communities across the nation," DeFazio said in a press release.

“Authorizing hazardous materials for transportation by rail should be a careful and deliberative process, supported by science and evidence, with adequate protections in place for the communities where this stuff is traveling," DeFazio said. "It is not something to be done with the stroke of a pen. The results of his order could be catastrophic."

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 10/21/2019