Biden admin quietly reverses Trump-era rule, bans transporting fossil fuels by train

Posted 28 days ago


The Biden administration quietly rescinded a Trump-era regulation allowing companies to transport liquefied natural gas (LNG) via rail in a victory for environmental groups.

In a federal filing Friday ahead of the holiday weekend, the Department of Transportation's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) formally suspended the 2020 authorization of LNG transportation in rail tank cars. The rule will remain in effect until either a permanent rule regarding LNG rail tank car transportation is proposed and finalized — a process that may take several months — or June 30, 2025.

"We are encouraged by the decision to suspend the dangerous practice of transporting highly flammable LNG by rail through communities," said Patrick Grenter, the director of eco group Sierra Club's Beyond Dirty Fuels Campaign.

"We have seen the destruction that an accident can cause to communities bordering the railway route — often communities most impacted by pollution and we support any step that will keep it from happening again," he added. "We urge PHMSA to make the only reasonable decision available to them: make the suspension permanent and ban LNG by rail once and for all."

The Sierra Club and several other environmental organizations, like Earthjustice, Natural Resources Defense Council and Food & Water Watch, have argued that allowing LNG transportation could lead to mass devastation. They have stated LNG is highly flammable and vulnerable to devastating explosions which could destroy communities which railroads cut through.

Democratic lawmakers, led by Rep. Chrissy Houlahan, D-Pa., wrote to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg earlier this year asking for a permanent ban on LNG transportation via rail and pointed to safety risks cited by environmental groups.

According to PHMSA, the rulemaking helps the federal government avoid potential risks to public health and environmental consequences, including "direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions." The agency stated the rule also provides sufficient time to complete ongoing testing and evaluation efforts regarding LNG rail transportation and allows development of mitigation measures for such transportation.

"This victory can, and must, go deeper," Matt Smith, a director with Food & Water Watch, said in a statement. "The Biden administration should take action to eliminate the threat of fracked gas bomb trains entirely, and it must do more to stop new fossil fuel projects across the country."... (Read more)