The Biden administration has scored a victory for environmental groups by quietly rescinding a Trump-era regulation allowing for the transportation of liquefied natural gas (LNG) via rail.
In a decision issued last Friday by the Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), LNG transportation in rail tank cars was immediately suspended until a permanent rule can be proposed and finalized. An evaluation process involving testing for potential risks is expected to take several months or until June 30, 2025.
“We are encouraged by the decision to suspend the dangerous practice of transporting highly flammable LNG by rail through communities,” Patrick Grenter, director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Dirty Fuels Campaign said.
Environmental groups have long voiced their opposition to the transportation of LNG via rail, citing the potential for devastating explosions that could obliterate nearby communities. Democratic lawmakers, such as Rep. Chrissy Houlahan, have petitioned Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg for an outright permanent ban on the transportation of LNG by rail.
Earlier this year, the Trump administration announced its authorization for the rail shipment of LNG. Former Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao championed the measure, assuring the public that safety measures were being put in place. However, environmental activists and dozens of states filed a lawsuit against PHMSA to challenge the regulation.
The environmental victory has been met with disapproval from Republican lawmakers and industry groups. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, the Senate Commerce Committee’s ranking member, referred to the decision as another “salvo” in the Biden administration’s “war on energy.”
Patty Long, president of the Railway Supply Institute, argued that transportation of LNG has “a proven safety record” and decried the federal decision to prevent U.S. communities from accessing an “affordable and environmentally responsible” option to fulfill their energy needs.
“This is yet another example of why the Biden administration cannot be trusted to implement pro-domestic energy policies,” said Cruz.
In addition to safety concerns, PHMSA was motivated to suspend the 2020 regulations as a means of avoiding potential greenhouse gas emissions.
Matt Smith, director of the watchdog group Food & Water Watch, views the decision as a “victory” but stresses that “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.”
The Biden administration’s victory for environmental groups stands as an example of the administration's commitment to protecting public health and safety. Although industry representatives and lawmakers may not be in support of the decision, it paves the way for safer transportation of residents and a healthier environment for all.