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Feds Asked to Put Brakes on LNG-by-Rail Plan

Opponents of a plan to allow liquified natural gas to be transported on rail tank cars say it's too dangerous for communities near the tracks. (Adobe Stock)
Opponents of a plan to allow liquified natural gas to be transported on rail tank cars say it's too dangerous for communities near the tracks. (Adobe Stock)
February 21, 2020

LANSING, Mich. - The Trump administration is considering a rule that would allow trains carrying a highly volatile substance to travel through Michigan and other states.

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration is reviewing hundreds of public comments about the proposal, that would allow the bulk transport of liquefied natural gas in rail tank cars.

Nathan Murphy, state director of Environment Michigan, says it would pose a threat to anyone who lives near the roughly 3,600 miles of railroad tracks in Michigan.

"They're going to be put in much higher danger if a train were to derail and an accident would happen and these trains would breach and leak, and potentially catch fire," says Murphy. "And shipping this around Michigan, or having trains cut through Michigan on their way to someplace else, is just an incredible risk that communities aren't willing to accept."

According to federal regulators, liquefied natural gas has been transported safely by highway and vessel for more than 50 years, and rail transport is needed given the expansion of U.S. energy production.

More than 400 comments were submitted, including from the National Transportation Safety Board, which said it would be detrimental to public safety.

Murphy contends that letting this proposal advance would likely lead to more fracking, which he believes is a step in the wrong direction.

"We know because of climate change we need to be shutting down fossil fuel infrastructure and moving away from fossil fuels," says Murphy, "not figuring out ways how to use more fossil fuels and move more fossil fuels around. This is just a wrong-headed idea, for several reasons."

Attorneys General from 16 states, including Michigan, petitioned the Trump administration to withdraw the proposal. They argue that it lacks basic safety precautions to lower accident risks, and that it was announced before the completion of safety studies.

Mary Schuermann Kuhlman, Public News Service - MI