Fifteen State AGs Challenge Rule Allowing Transport of Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) by Rail
Rule would authorize trains with up to 100 rail cars of highly-flammable LNG to move through the nation’s cities and towns.
August 18, 2020
Washington, D.C. — Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh and New York Attorney General Letitia James led a coalition of 15 state attorneys general in filing a petition for review today challenging a final rule issued by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) that would allow liquefied natural gas (LNG) to be transported on trains of up to 100 rail cars through densely populated areas of the United States. The rule was prompted by an executive order in which President Trump explicitly ordered the Transportation Department to produce a final rule that “would treat LNG the same as other cryogenic liquids and permit LNG to be transported in approved rail tank cars.” The attorneys general previously submitted comments regarding the unacceptable safety risks associated with transporting LNG by rail, and the draft rule’s failure to comply with the Administrative Procedure Act, National Environmental Policy Act and Hazardous Materials Transportation Act.
“Ships carrying LNG have been characterized as floating bombs,” said Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh. “Rolling tank cars filled with LNG through our neighborhoods are vastly more dangerous. This proposal is heedless of the risks to the safety of our families and our natural resources posed by moving massive quantities of LNG by rail through our cities, towns.”
“Californians who live, work, or go to school near train routes are not interested in being specimens in a crash-test laboratory for the Trump Administration,” said California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. “Today, we’re going to court because our families expect our government to put their safety first, not put them in harm’s way. If only the Trump Administration spent as much time trying to solve our current public health crisis as it does creating new public health hazards.”
In its proposed rule released last October, PHMSA acknowledged that the risks of transporting LNG by rail include “fireballs, flash fire, and explosions from ground-level vapor clouds” that reach nearly 2,500°F. These risks are similar to those associated with transporting crude oil by rail, a practice that has increased 13,309 percent in the U.S. since 1995 and has led to frequent accidents, including one in 2013 in Quebec that killed 47 people and leveled a small town. Today, more than 25 million Americans live within a mile of a rail line that carries crude oil.
In addition to serious safety risks, PHMSA’s final rule also overlooks the climate impacts of transporting LNG by rail. In January, a coalition of 16 AGs led by AG Frosh and AG James submitted comments criticizing PHMSA’s proposal and emphasizing that the National Environmental Policy Act “requires a far-deeper assessment of the reasonably foreseeable environmental impacts of the Proposed Rule, including its effects on greenhouse gas emissions.”
The attorneys general of California, Delaware, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and Washington, D.C. joined AG Frosh and AG James in filing the petition for review.
About the State Energy & Environmental Impact Center:
The State Energy & Environmental Impact Center at NYU School of Law is a nonpartisan academic center at NYU School of Law. The Center is dedicated to working towards a healthy and safe environment, guided by inclusive and equitable principles. The Center studies and supports the work of state attorneys general (AGs) in defending, enforcing, and promoting strong laws and policies in the areas of climate, environmental justice, environmental protection, and clean energy.