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Connecticut AG joins coalition supporting suspension of rule authorizing unsafe liquefied natural gas trains

Christian Fernsby |
Attorney General William Tong filed comments in support of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’s (PHMSA) proposal to suspend regulations that allowed liquefied natural gas (LNG) to be shipped in bulk in unproven rail tank cars with only limited safety measures in place.

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Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh and New York Attorney General Letitia James led the coalition of 13 attorneys general in submitting the comments.

“Moving large quantities of extremely flammable and explosive liquified natural gas through our towns and cities without adequate safety measures in place is a national tragedy waiting to happen,” Attorney General Tong said.

“The original flawed regulation poses many real dangers – to public safety, to our climate, and to overburdened communities. I support PHMSA’s common sense proposal to suspend this unwise regulation.”

LNG is an extremely hazardous substance that must be stored below -260℉ to maintain its liquid state. If exposed to atmospheric conditions, a liquid LNG pool will quickly volatize into natural gas, creating a super cold cloud of odorless, flammable, and potentially explosive gas.

The Trump administration’s LNG by Rail rule, which was finalized in July 2020, was expected to introduce trains of 80-100 tank cars, each carrying over 30,000 gallons of LNG, to our nation’s railways, allowing a highly hazardous explosive cargo to be transported through densely populated areas.

The regulations also fail to properly assess the effect shipping LNGs in bulk by train might have on climate change. It is possible that transporting LNGs in this new way may increase the production and use of natural gas instead of encouraging use of more climate friendly alternatives.

In the letter, the attorneys general write, “The limited analysis included in the agency’s Final Environmental Assessment for the 2020 LNG by Rail Rule failed to rise to the standard required by NEPA [National Environmental Policy Act] and therefore provides independent grounds for suspending the rule.

"The absence of such an analysis is particularly striking given the limited amount of time remaining to avoid the worst effects of climate change.

"The States agree with PHMSA that while the 2020 Rule touted ‘the potential for increased natural gas (methane) production as a potential benefit . . . more recent science has underscored the urgency of limiting such additional production for avoiding the worst consequences from anthropogenic climate change from indirect emissions associated with production and transportation activity.’”

Attorney General Frosh, in August 2020, led a coalition of states in petitioning the U.S Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to review the Trump administration’s rushed authorization of rail transportation of LNG.

The coalition asserted that the rule failed to include basic safety measures, like mandatory speed limits and distance requirements, to protect rail crews from their hazardous cargo. The petition followed comments filed by a coalition led by Attorney General Frosh in January 2020 opposing the administration’s proposal to authorize bulk LNG by rail.

In those comments, the coalition argued that the proposal was submitted without the completion of safety studies, or sufficient analysis of the public safety and climate change implications of permitting the nationwide transport of LNG by rail.

Joining Attorney General Tong in filing the comments are the attorneys general of Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

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