Rule allowing rail shipments of LNG will be put on hold to allow more study of safety concerns

Aug 31, 2023, 3:19 PM | Updated: 3:32 pm

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A Trump-era rule allowing railroads to haul highly flammable liquefied natural gas will now be formally put on hold to allow more time to study the safety concerns related to transporting that fuel and other substances like hydrogen that must be kept at extremely low temperatures when they are shipped, regulators announced Thursday.

Right after it was announced in the summer of 2020, the rule was challenged in court by a number of environmental groups and 14 states. The uncertainty about the rule on transporting the fuel known as LNG kept railroads from shipping it. The Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration says no one has ever even ordered one of the specially fortified rail cars that would have been required to ship LNG, and several hundred of those cars that would each take at least 18 months to build would likely be needed to make the idea viable.

“We need to do more safety investigative work,” said Tristan Brown, the deputy administrator who is leading the agency. “Until we do that work, we don’t want someone to, you know, make investments and deploy something where we haven’t fully done the process we normally do need to do.”

Brown acknowledged that the rule was rushed under a directive from former President Donald Trump, so it needs to be refined.

This latest action ensures the rule that was backed by the freight rail and natural gas industries will remain on hold at least until regulators finalize changes to the rule the Biden administration wants to make or the end of June 2025 — whichever comes first.

One of the big railroads that said it may have been interested in hauling the fuel, CSX, abandoned any plans to build the infrastructure needed to load and unload LNG from railcars after the agency first announced this proposal to suspend the rule in 2021.

Current federal rules do allow trucks to haul LNG but not rail. But Brown said there’s only a tiny amount of natural gas that isn’t delivered by pipelines, so there was never much demand for rail shipments of LNG. After pipelines deliver gas to ports, ships haul the LNG that is exported.

The rail industry maintains that it is the safest option to transport hazardous materials across land. The Association of American Railroads trade group touts railroads’ record of delivering more than 99% of all toxic shipments without incident.

But rail safety has been in the spotlight this year ever since a Norfolk Southern train derailed in eastern Ohio in February and spilled several chemicals that caught fire. That railroad is still cleaning the mess that prompted calls for reforms and fears of possible health problems for people who live in and around East Palestine.

Brown said he thinks the East Palestine derailment highlighted the importance of some of his agency’s previous rules because the tougher tank cars recommended in 2015 performed better in the wreck. But that derailment highlights the need for railroad regulations.

“I think that has that has underscored the need to address rail safety — generally hazmat transportation by rail,” Brown said.

U.S. natural gas production has continued to surge in recent years amid strong global demand for the fuel. Natural gas exports have grown steadily over the past two decades, and the U.S. has become the world’s largest exporter of liquefied natural gas.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine only added to global demand. That’s particularly the case in Europe, where many nations were accustomed to relying on Russian energy before the war prompted them to sever those ties.

The states that challenged the LNG rule in court alongside groups like the Sierra Club, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Clean Air Council included California, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington. Washington D.C. and the Puyallup Tribe of Indians are also part of the lawsuit.

National News

Associated Press

ExxonMobil loses bid to truck millions of gallons of crude oil through central California

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. (AP) — ExxonMobil lost a court bid Wednesday to truck millions of gallons of crude oil through central California — a crucial part of its efforts to restart offshore oil wells that were shut in 2015 after a pipeline leak caused the worst coastal spill in 25 years. A federal judge refused […]

1 hour ago

Associated Press

Man who accosted former Rep. Lee Zeldin at campaign stop pleads guilty in federal case

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (AP) — A man who climbed the platform at a campaign event in western New York last year and grappled with Republican gubernatorial candidate Lee Zeldin pleaded guilty Wednesday to a misdemeanor charge of assaulting a federal officer. David Jakubonis, 44, faces up to a year in prison and a hefty fine at […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

Russia accuses US of promoting ties between Israel and Arabs before Israeli-Palestinian peace deal

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Russia accused the United States on Wednesday of promoting Israel’s normalization of relations with Arab nations and circumventing the Arab Peace Initiative launched by Saudi Arabia in 2002, which calls for a settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict before any diplomatic recognition of Israel. The statement by Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

Montana man pleads not guilty to threatening to kill President Joe Biden, US Senator Jon Tester

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A Montana man has pleaded not guilty to federal charges alleging he threatened to kill President Joe Biden and U.S. Sen. Jon Tester of Montana, both Democrats, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Montana said. Anthony James Cross of Billings entered his plea on Tuesday. He remains detained. Cross, 29, has been […]

4 hours ago

Associated Press

Remains found of Colorado woman Suzanne Morphew, who went missing on Mother’s Day 2020

LAKEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Searchers have found the remains of a woman who was reported missing on Mother’s Day in 2020 after she did not return from a bike ride near her home in the Salida area in southern Colorado. Agents with the Colorado Bureau of Investigation found the remains of Suzanne Morphew, 49, during […]

4 hours ago

The University of Nevada’s basketball team could have a new home at an off-campus arena by 2026 u...

Associated Press

Reno casino expansion plan includes new arena that could be University of Nevada basketball home

RENO, Nev. (AP) — The University of Nevada’s basketball team could have a new off-campus home by 2026 under an ambitious 10-year expansion plan that Reno’s largest hotel-casino announced Wednesday. The nearly $1 billion private capital investment will be the biggest in the city’s history, according to officials of the Grand Sierra Resort. In addition […]

6 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Swedish Cyberknife...

September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

September is a busy month on the sports calendar and also holds a very special designation: Prostate Cancer Awareness Month.

Ziply Fiber...

Dan Miller

The truth about Gigs, Gs and other internet marketing jargon

If you’re confused by internet technologies and marketing jargon, you’re not alone. Here's how you can make an informed decision.

Education families...

Education that meets the needs of students, families

Washington Virtual Academies (WAVA) is a program of Omak School District that is a full-time online public school for students in grades K-12.

Emergency preparedness...

Emergency planning for the worst-case scenario

What would you do if you woke up in the middle of the night and heard an intruder in your kitchen? West Coast Armory North can help.

Innovative Education...

The Power of an Innovative Education

Parents and students in Washington state have the power to reimagine the K-12 educational experience through Insight School of Washington.

Medicare fraud...

If you’re on Medicare, you can help stop fraud!

Fraud costs Medicare an estimated $60 billion each year and ultimately raises the cost of health care for everyone.

Rule allowing rail shipments of LNG will be put on hold to allow more study of safety concerns