Posts Tagged ‘LNG by rail’

States Sue to Stop LNG by Rail Rule

August 20, 2020

Fourteen states and the District of Columbia filed a lawsuit this week seeking to overturn a rule by the U.S. Department of Transportation allowing the bulk transport by rail of liquefied natural gas.

The suit, which was filed in the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, cites health and safety concerns.

The rule, originally promulgated by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration would permit bulk transport by rail of LNG.

That agency worked in tandem with the Federal Railroad Administration to write the rule, which became final in June.

The states filing the lawsuit included California, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.

They were joined by several environmental groups led by Earthjustice.

They are contending that PHMSA’s failure to evaluate the environmental impacts of the rule is unlawful, and the rule lacks the necessary safety requirements to minimize the risk to public safety associated with transporting LNG by rail.

Most of the same states had during the rule making process opposed the rule.

The states said they will argue in court that the final rule violates the Administrative Procedure Act, National Environmental Policy Act and Hazardous Materials Transportation Act.

Final Rule on LNG Transport Announced

June 20, 2020

The U.S. Department of Transportation and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration in consultation with the Federal Railroad Administration released on Friday a a final rule authorizing the bulk transportation of liquefied natural gas by rail.

The rule, which will be published in the Federal Register, will allow the transport of LNG in DOT-113C120W9 (DOT-113) specification tank cars with enhanced outer tank requirements and additional operational controls.

The rule generally comports with a executive order issued by President Donald Trump in April 2019.

In a news release, DOT noted that transport of LNG has previously been allowed with FRA approval in a portable tank.

“Federal Hazardous Materials Regulations have also authorized the transportation of other flammable cryogenic materials for many years in DOT-113 tank cars,” DOT said in a statement. “This final rule also incorporates newly designated additional safety requirements, such as an enhanced thicker carbon steel outer tank.”

DOT said the rule also requires remote monitoring of the pressure and location of LNG tank cars, requires improved braking and requires a two-way end-of-train device or distributed power system when a train is transporting 20 or more tank cars loaded with LNG in a continuous block, or 35 or more such tank cars of LNG anywhere in the train consist.

Railroads will be required to conduct route risk assessments to evaluate safety and security.

Proposed LNG by Rail Rule Draws Range of Comments

January 17, 2020

Opinions are flowing in rapidly on a proposal by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to allow trains to transport liquefied natural gas in DOT-113C120W specification rail tank cars.

Opposed are the National Transportation Safety Board, attorneys general of 16 states and at least two U.S. senators.

In favor are railroad trade groups Association of American Railroads, and the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association.

The rule change is also being pushed by the Trump administration.

To opponents it is a matter of public safety. The proponents of the rule also cite safety but contend that transporting LNG by rail is safer because of the industry’s “strong safety record” on a ton-mile basis.

Under existing standards, LNG can only be transported by rail with a PHMSA special permit or in a portable tank with Federal Railroad Administration approval.

The dispute began last April when President Trump issued an executive order directing the U.S. Department of Transportation to expedite a proceeding so that LNG could be moved by rail tank cars within 13 months.

The proposed rule that is the subject of public comment was issued in October by the PHMSA.

From the administration’s viewpoint, the rule will provide economic benefits by providing additional transportation options for U.S. energy resources.

In a news release, PHMSA said LNG by rail is seen by the administration as a potential alternative to pipelines, which are not always able to meet the demand of or reach certain areas in the United States that are accessible by rail.

Railroad trade groups that favor the rule have sought to play up the safety record of railroads, saying railroads are involved in only 3 percent of hazardous materials incidents that trucks are involved in, despite having roughly equal hazmat ton-mileage.

The trade groups have even called for the proposed rule to be more expansive than it is, calling for PHMSA to allow LNG to be transported by the 113C140 tank car in addition to the 113C120 and dropping proposed limits on the lengths of trains transporting LNG.

For its part the NTSB has said public safety may be at risk without further study of LNG by rail.

The safety agency said the rule should at a minimum include additional route planning requirements; limit trains transporting large blocks of LNG tank cars to a maximum speed of 50 mph; and require LNG trains to be equipped with electronically controlled pneumatic brakes.

U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley wrote to PHMSA Administrator Howard Elliott to warn that loosening restrictions on transporting LNG by rail “would pose serious threats to public safety that do not appear to have been adequately considered” by regulators.

In calling for further study they cited multiple accidents involving trains carrying hazardous materials, including a 2016 derailment in Mosier, Oregon, that spilled 42,000 gallons of crude oil into the Columbia River Gorge and sparked a large fire.

The attorneys general in opposing the LNG by rail rule said it ignores safety risks and doesn’t substantially address environmental issues.

They, too, want the rule withdrawn until further study and an environmental impact statement can be completed.

Union Wants FRA to Order Brake Valves Replaced

December 27, 2019

A railroad union wants the Federal Railroad Administration to issue an emergency order to require the immediate replacement of what it termed outdated air brake valves on freight cars.

The SMART Transportation Division said tens of thousands of model DB-10 air brake valves have remained in use beyond their fixed lifespan and during cold weather these valves can leak air, causing freight-train operators to lose braking capabilities.

In a news release, SMART TD noted the the Association of American Railroads issued a maintenance advisory in 2013 that railroads replace and repair the malfunctioning valves.
SMART TD said that although the AAR made recommendations the fixes have thus far been unsatisfactory.

Railroads have been reluctant to replace old parts in a thorough way because of the potential delays it could cause to customers, the union said and has instead used a “catch-as-can” approach.

In an unrelated development, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Oregon) and U.S. Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-New Jersey) have called upon the Pipeline and Hazardous Safety Administration to to thoroughly analyze the potential impacts of transporting liquefied natural gas by rail tank car.

The congressmen sent a letter to PHMSA Administrator Howard Elliott asking his agency to conduct the analysis of public and environmental risks, and apply stringent safety protections and operational controls when LNG is transported by rail car through communities.

The letter came in response to a notice of proposed rulemaking published by PHMSA in late October whereby the agency in coordination with the FRA proposed the rule to permit the transport of large quantities of LNG throughout the country by rail tank car.

PHMSA has granted a special permit to Energy Transport Solutions to move LNG from Pennsylvania to New Jersey, “without appropriate research and analysis of the safety risks to communities and no opportunity for the public to address operating conditions,” the congressmen said.