US Representatives Defazio and Malinowski want answers on LNG transport by rail tank car

Written by David C. Lester, Managing Editor
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David C. Lester
TransportationToday reported yesterday that Representative Peter DeFazio (D-OR), along with Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-NJ) has contacted the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) to inquire about permits for the transportation of liquefied natural gas (LNG) by rail.  DeFazio has also asked the Federal Railroad Administration and PHMSA to make the operating conditions around moving LNG by rail available to the public.  This request stems from a permit application by Energy Transport Solutions, LLC (ETS) to move LNG by rail.  ETS wants to move LNG in several sets of 100-car unit trains.  The LNG would be used in the United States and exported overseas.

The letter written by Defazio and Malinowski to the PHMSA ” . . . requests that, if PHMSA is still considering the special permit process to allow Energy Transport Solutions, LLC  to transport LNG by rail tank car before it receives the results of . . . safety studies, a revised draft special permit be posted to the public docket with FRA and PHMSA’s proposed operating conditions before any special permit is finalized.  This would ensure that the public and interested parties are able to adequately consider these operating conditions along with the safety risks associated with the proposed movement.”
TransportationToday reports the Defazio/Malinowski letter to the PHMSA also says “The requested special permit presents unique and substantial risk to the safety of the public and the environment.  Should even one rail tank car get punctured, the results could be catastrophic.  Due to LNG’s cold temperature, if it were to spill near an ignition source, the evaporating gas can burn above the LNG pool, resulting in a pool fire that would spread as the LNG pool expanded away from its source; such a pool fire is intense, burning far more hotly and rapidly than crude oil or gasoline fires, and cannot be extinguished.  The risks of such an incident include thermal radiation.  As PHMSA’s own draft environmental statement acknowledges, a BLEVE [boiling liquid expanding vapor explosion] event is also possible, which could impact individuals up to one mile away from the explosion.”


The transportation of liquefied natural gas (LNG) in rail tank cars has been a controversial issue for years.  Freightwaves reported back in June that the U.S. House of Representatives has significant safety concerns, and has been resisting an effort by the Trump Administration to allow the movement of LNG in tank cars.   On June 24, the House approved an amendment to an appropriations bill that could prevent President Trump’s executive order to allow LNG movement in rail tank cars across the nation.  The amendment would also prevent the Secretary of Transportation from allowing Energy Transport Solutions to move LNG by rail.

Freightwaves also reported Defazio, who sponsored the amendment, said “In its never-ending quest to put profit ahead of people, the Trump Administration is now trying to bypass long-standing requirements for transportation of LNG by putting it into 100-car trains that roll through densely populated areas at upwards of 50 miles per hour.”


Defazio also said “This plan is beyond absurd. Should even one tank car get punctured, the results could be devastating. My amendment blocks this brazen attempt by the administration. I urge the Senate to follow suit and stop a massive catastrophe before it’s too late.”


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