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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

Lawmakers' bill would require safety review of LNG by rail


House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) and U.S. Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-N.J.) have introduced legislation that would require a comprehensive review into the transport of liquefied natural gas (LNG) by rail tank cars.

The bill (H.R. 4306) follows President Donald Trump's executive order, issued in April, which called U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao to fast-track a process that would enable LNG to be moved through the United States in rail tank cars within 13 months.

In June, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) took steps to allow LNG by rail "despite having little information about the possible risks to local communities," DeFazio and Malinowski said Sept.16 in a press release.

H.R. 4306 would require the 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 to conduct an independent evaluation to ensure all review requirements have been satisfactorily met.

DeFazio called the Trump administration's plan to allow trains of up to 100 cars filled with LNG to move by rail “extremely reckless.”

"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," he said. "Our legislation ensures full disclosure, thorough scientific analysis of risks before the administration can move forward with their proposal."

On June 28, the congressmen sent a letter to the PHMSA requesting additional information and an extension of a public comment period on a special permit the administration is considering to allow LNG to be transported by rail in Florida.

While the PHMSA responded and agreed to extend the comment period and provided some information, it did not fully comply with their requests, DeFazio and Malinowski said.

Last month, they sent a follow-up letter requesting that the 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.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 9/18/2019