14 States Sue Trump Administration Over Gas Transportation Rule

August 18, 2020 – Fourteen states and Washington, D.C., are suing the Trump administration over a new rule that would allow for the transportation of liquefied natural gas (LNG) by rail, citing health and safety risks.

The rule, finalized this year by the Transportation Department and Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), would allow for the fuel to be transported on rail tank cars. Previously, a special permit was needed for such transport.

The lawsuit filed Tuesday did not lay out legal arguments, but the Democratic state and city attorneys general bringing the suit said in a joint statement they plan to argue that the PHMSA failed to evaluate the rule’s environmental impacts and that the rule does not contain enough safety requirements.

“Californians who live, work, or go to school near train routes are not interested in being specimens in a crash-test laboratory for the Trump Administration,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra (D) said in the statement.

“We’re going to court because our families expect our government to put their safety first, not put them in harm’s way. If only the Trump Administration spent as much time trying to solve our current public health crisis as it does creating new public health hazards,” Becerra added.

A PHMSA spokesperson declined to comment.

The administration has determined that transporting liquefied natural gas by rail is a “safe alternative,” but environmentalists have expressed skepticism.

In their own statement threatening to sue over the rule last month, Earthjustice attorney Bradley Marshall said that 22 tank cars could hold “the equivalent energy of the Hiroshima bomb.”

When the rule was finalized, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao praised the transport method as a way to get energy to more parts of the country.

“The Department’s new rule carefully lays out key operational safeguards to provide for the safe transportation of LNG by rail to more parts of the country where this energy source is needed,” she said.

By Rachel Frazin, The Hill
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