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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

Congressmen seek longer comment period for LNG-by-rail permit request


House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) and U.S. Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-N.J.) have asked the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) to extend the public comment period on a special permit the administration is considering to allow liquefied natural gas (LNG) to be transported by rail in Florida.

In a June 28 letter to PHMSA Administrator Howard Elliott, DeFazio and Malinowski note that the comment period — set to close July 8 — does not allow the public or Congress enough time to learn where and how Energy Transport Solutions intends to move LNG via Florida East Coast Railway, and how first responders along the route could respond to a leak or explosion.

Currently, the U.S. Department of Transportation has an open public comment period on a proposed special permit for Energy Transport to transport LNG by tank cars through the densely-populated Florida coast.

“The requested special permit presents unique and substantial risk to the safety of the public and the environment. Should even one tank car get punctured, the results could be catastrophic," the congressmen wrote. "If Energy Transport Solutions intends to run 100-plus tank cars on the Florida East Coast Railway, PHMSA would be placing large swaths of people and critical infrastructure (hospitals, schools, highways, and even the President’s Mar-a-Lago resort) in jeopardy."

Earlier last week, the House approved DeFazio's amendment to H.R. 3055 that would prohibit Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao from finalizing a rulemaking and issuing a special permit that would allow LNG to be transported by tank cars.

The amendment was offered in response to President Trump's April 10 executive order, which called for LNG to be moved through the United States in tank cars within 13 months. On June 6, PHMSA advanced a plan to authorize six trains, or 100 or more tank cars, to move LNG for export through densely populated areas, DeFazio said in a press release.

DeFazio accused the Trump administration of fast-tracking the special permit and bypassing "long-standing requirements" for transporting LNG by rail.

“This plan is beyond absurd," DeFazio said. "Should even one tank car get punctured, the results could be devastating."