Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, July 24, 2020


Emily Jeffers, Center for Biological Diversity, (510) 844-7109,
Bradley Marshall, Earthjustice, (845) 239-2355,

Trump Administration OKs Liquid Natural Gas by Rail Despite Explosion Risks

Environmental Groups Say They’ll Sue to Overturn New Rule

WASHINGTON— The Trump administration released a final rule today allowing liquefied natural gas (LNG) to be shipped by rail, overruling critics who warn that it risks deadly explosions. The Federal Railroad Administration and Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration amended federal hazardous-materials rules that have prohibited LNG from being shipped by train.

The Center for Biological Diversity and Earthjustice pledged today to fight the new rule in court. The two organizations have been commenting for years about the dangers of allowing this dangerous condensed fuel to travel by rail through cities and other sensitive areas.

“The Trump administration’s reckless LNG rule risks explosions and fires in populated areas. We’ll fight to protect our communities from this deadly threat,” said Emily Jeffers, an attorney at the Center. “The fossil fuel industry is desperate to cover its bad bet on fracking by trying to easily move more LNG. Our climate and communities will pay a terrible price if we let these explosive trains roll through our cities and towns.”

The new rule calls for design changes to rail cars that will carry LNG, including “enhanced outer tank requirements.” But these untested new tank car designs will be heavy and could be more prone to derailments and other accidents.

“The explosion risk of transporting this volatile cargo in vulnerable tank cars through major population centers is off the charts. It would only take 22 tank cars to hold the equivalent energy of the Hiroshima bomb. A train of 110 tank cars filled with liquefied natural gas would have five times the energy of the Hiroshima bomb,” said Earthjustice attorney Bradley Marshall. “We will hold this administration accountable for its responsibility to protect Americans from disaster.”

The fossil fuel industry and Association of American Railroads has been pushing the federal government to end its ban on LNG by rail for years. But LNG carries many of the same public-safety risks as the oil trains that have repeatedly derailed and caused deaths and damage to property and the environment in recent years, and LNG by rail has additional risks that oil trains don’t have.

A 2014 explosion at an LNG facility in the state of Washington injured five workers and forced hundreds of people to evacuate their homes. Experts say pool fires may be the biggest risks of shipping LNG by rail. If LNG spills near an ignition source, evaporating gas will burn above the pool of spilling LNG. A pool fire is intense, burning far more hotly and rapidly than oil or gasoline fires. It cannot be extinguished — all the LNG must be consumed before it goes out.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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