Attorney General Becerra: Trump Administration Proposal Greenlighting Transport of LNG by Rail is Unlawful, Dangerous
SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today, as part of a coalition of 16 attorneys general, filed a comment letter opposing a proposal by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) to allow the nationwide transport of liquefied natural gas, or LNG, by rail for the first time ever. Liquefied natural gas is flammable, odorless, and highly hazardous. Accidents or derailments of trains transporting liquefied natural gas can cause high intensity fires and violent explosions. The proposed rule would allow these trains, with up to 100 rail cars operated by just one person, to move with inadequate safety precautions through densely populated areas and on the same rail lines used by high-speed passenger trains. The proposed rule would not only endanger California and other communities, but would likely result in an increase of greenhouse gas emissions. The coalition urges PHMSA to withdraw the proposal on the basis that it is unlawful and a public safety risk.
“The Trump Administration has unabashedly bowed to industry requests to put aside the safety of millions of Californians who live, work, and attend schools near the routes of these dangerous trains,” said Attorney General Becerra. “President Trump shouldn’t value the profits of industry over the safety of these communities. This proposed rule would turn cities across the country into potential crash-test laboratories to demonstrate the risk of LNG by rail.”
Natural gas is a major source of energy and greenhouse gas emissions locally, nationally, and globally. While responsibly-produced natural gas is less polluting than coal or oil, it is a significant and growing source of global warming gases in the atmosphere. The production and industrial use of natural gas contributed about a quarter of total greenhouse gas emissions in the United States in 2017. To allow for transport of natural gas, the substance is converted to liquid form. Liquefied natural gas is considered a hazardous material because it is highly flammable and poses an unreasonable risk to health, safety and property during transport.
The coalition urges PHMSA to withdraw the proposed rule, asserting that it:
- Ignores the hazardous qualities of liquefied natural gas and the lack of experience and research in addressing the risks associated with the substance;
- Improperly disregards the dangers of transport by rail of liquefied natural gas at the request of industry and in conflict with previous recommendations by the agency in violation of both NEPA and APA;
- Understates the significant safety concerns inherent in shipping liquefied natural gas by rail on existing freight corridors; and
- Provides an insubstantial environmental assessment as opposed to a full Environmental Impact Statement as required by NEPA.
Along with Attorney General Becerra, the attorneys general of Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia filed the comments.
A copy of the comment letter and appendix can be found here.