Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, May 15, 2017

Contact: Emily Jeffers, (510) 844-7109,

Regulators Warned Not to Ignore Risks of Trains Full of Liquefied Natural Gas

Lawsuit Threatened if Feds Rubber-stamp National LNG Shipping Plan  

WASHINGTON— The Center for Biological Diversity today threatened to sue federal regulators if they approve a railroad industry request to ship liquefied natural gas nationwide without carefully studying safety and environmental risks.

Today's letter to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration notes that the agency currently prohibits most railroad shipments of liquefied natural gas, or LNG. “Transporting LNG by rail is inherently dangerous, and risks explosions, pool fires that are impossible to put out, and other accidents that can harm public health and the environment,” today's letter points out.

“Federal agencies can't turn a blind eye to the dangers of trains full of explosive liquid natural gas rolling through our communities,” said Emily Jeffers, the Center attorney who sent the letter. “Officials who ignored the law in approving a pilot LNG-by-rail project in Alaska shouldn't be allowed to repeat that dangerous mistake on a national scale.”

After the Federal Railroad Administration approved the country's first LNG-by-rail shipments last year, exempting an Alaska pilot project from federal regulations on transporting hazardous materials, a lawsuit by the Center uncovered documents showing the secretive approval process violated the National Environmental Policy Act.  

Last week DeSmogBlog reported on the flawed Alaska approval process and revealed that the Association of American Railroads has petitioned the federal government for new rules that would allow LNG-by-rail nationwide.

Today's Center letter spelled out the studies and public input procedures required by federal law before officials consider allowing this explosive condensed gas to be shipped throughout the country. 

“These federal statutes are essential in ensuring the environmental impacts of this decision are fully examined, and the public is given the opportunity to comment,” Jeffers wrote in the letter. She later added, “If the agency fails to act, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration will be putting our communities in danger and violating the law, and the Center will take action seeking legal remedies.” 

The oil and gas industry is desperately looking for new ways to transport expanding supplies of natural gas derived from hydraulic fracturing (fracking), which exceed current pipeline capacity. 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. 

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 1.3 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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