View article in its entirety at DeSmog.— Author: Justin Mikulka
President Trump has made clear that he wants to move the nation’s glut of fracked natural gas onto trains and then to ships for sale abroad.
In response to Trump’s April executive order pushing federal agencies to make that happen, the Department of Transportation (DOT) on October 18 announced a proposed rule for what it calls the “safe transportation of liquefied natural gas [LNG] by rail tank car.”
However, the proposed rule does not include any new safety regulations or require any safety testing for moving large quantities of this flammable cargo. Instead, the rule, coming from the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) and Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), would allow the rail industry to move LNG in rail tank cars, labeled DOT-113, currently used to ship small quantities of other flammable gases super-cooled into liquid form.
While the DOT press release announcing the rulemaking emphasizes safety (the word or a variant is repeated no fewer than eight times), the actual document proposing this new rule details a worrisome scenario for what could happen if a train of LNG tank cars derails, breaching and releasing the liquefied fossil fuel — what PHMSA calls “Scenario 3”:
“Although Scenario 3 has a low probability, a breached inner tank during a transportation accident could have a high consequence because of the higher probability of a fire due to the formation of a flammable gas vapor/air mixture in the immediate vicinity of the spilled LNG. This probability is based on the likelihood of ignition sources (sparks, hot surfaces, etc.) being generated by other equipment, rail cars, or vehicles involved in a transportation accident that could ignite a flammable vapor cloud.”
According to PHMSA, the derailment of a train full of LNG could have “high consequences” — as in, a major fire or explosion — but because the agency says there are lower odds that it would happen, the public should feel assured this proposed transportation mode, using DOT-113 rail tank cars, is safe.
In the proposed rule, PHMSA also acknowledges that such “rare” accidents with DOT-113 tank cars can release large quantities of their cargo, which in this case would be natural gas, a flammable fuel.
There is a 60 day public comment period for this proposed rule that ends on December 23, 2019.