October 27, 2023 - TRA Newswire - 

U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), ranking member of the Senate Commerce Committee, along with a bicameral coalition of federal lawmakers, is calling on the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) to reverse its ruling and allow liquified natural gas (LNG) to be transported by rail. 

A 2020 rule allowing transporting LNG by rail was reversed by the Biden Administration's green agenda, putting compressed natural gas back on highways to be delivered by thousands of trucks rather than in safely-provided railcars. North of the border, Canada has determined that LNG can be safely transported by rail.

In a letter to PHMSA Deputy Administrator Tristan Brown, the lawmakers raised concerns about PHMSA advancing the administration's green agenda, intentionally discouraging investment in American energy, and prioritizing radical policies at the expense of PHMSA's safety mission. The letter called for he PHMSA "to reverse this misstep or, at a minimum, act more rationally going forward.”

In July 2020, PHMSA issued a final rule authorizing the movement of LNG by rail tank car.  The regulation required the use of the safest rail tank car available to transport cryogenic material together with certain operational controls to ensure safety. 

President Biden had targeted the LNG rule, placing it on a list of regulatory actions for review accompanying his executive order on “Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science to Tackle the Climate Crisis.” In November 2021, PHMSA proposed to suspend the rule, pushing LNG transport back onto highways. 

“When issuing the LNG by rail rule in 2020, PHMSA leveraged the experience of safely moving many flammable commodities by rail and moving LNG by other modes.  Shippers have safely offered, and carriers have safely transported, other flammable cryogenic liquids in similar tank cars for years without fatalities or serious injuries" according to the text of the letter.

The largest manufacturer of railcars that can safely transport LNG and other cryogenic liquids is Dallas-based Trinity Industries. The company had been manufacturing over 270 different railcar designs for half a century, including all types of tank cars. Allowing LNG to be continued to be transported by rail would mean continued strong employment at Trinity Industries. 

"Texas Rail Advocates supports the use of rail for movement of cryogenic liquids, including LNG", according to TRA President Peter LeCody. "The USDOT's own data shows that the truck hazmat incident rate in more than 13 times higher than shipping these liquids by rail so why are we even fussing over this issue?"

In the letter to the PHMSA it was stated that “from a safety perspective, it is absurd to remove these rail tank cars as an approved alternative to shipments of LNG by truck.  As PHMSA’s own data shows, movement of hazardous materials by highway is inherently less safe for the public” As pointed out in the letter, the U.S. has led the world in reducing carbon emissions, in large part because of clean natural gas. LNG by rail would only boost efforts to provide affordable and environmentally responsible energy.

Photo credit: Trinity Industries