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Oregon, 14 other states oppose Trump plan to allow LNG shipments by rail

Train tracks railroad generic MGN
MGN graphic

Senators Wyden, Merkley also express concerns

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) -- The attorneys general of 15 states, including Oregon, are opposing a Trump administration proposal to allow rail shipments of liquefied natural gas.

They argue the trains will share tracks with passenger trains and travel through heavily congested areas.

The protesting states submitted comments on the proposal Monday. They include Pennsylvania and New Jersey, where the Trump administration issued a special permit in December to ship LNG by rail.

The states say the rule would put residents, first responders and the environment at greater risk of catastrophic accidents. LNG shipments are allowed by truck, but not by rail, except for with a special permit.

The list of objecting states were California, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington, as well as the District of Columbia.

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News release from Sens. Wyden, Merkley:

Wyden, Merkley Press Trump Admin on LNG By Rail Safety

Senators concerned proposed rules will make the transportation of LNG by rail less safe, put local communities at-risk for derailments

Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley today expressed concerns over the Trump administration’s proposed rules on the transportation of liquefied natural gas (LNG) by rail. 

 In a letter to Administrator Howard Elliott, head of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration at the U.S. Department of Transportation, the senators emphasized that the loosening of transportation regulations for LNG by rail in proposed rulemaking pose a risk to public safety in Oregon and nationwide.

 The senators wrote, “We are concerned that significantly loosening restrictions on the transport of liquefied natural gas (LNG) by rail would pose serious threats to public safety that do not appear to have been adequately considered by this rulemaking… Rather than await further proof of safety and reliability through small-scale transportation of LNG by rail, this proposal is opening the floodgates to bulk transportation without sufficient analysis to provide adequate safety guidelines.”      

The senators mentioned their concerns over loosening regulations consideringmultiple accidents involving trains carrying hazardous materials, including a 2016 derailment in Mosier, Oregon that spilled 42,000 gallons of crude oil in the Columbia River Gorge and sparked a large fire. 

“In our home state of Oregon, we have seen the risks firsthand… Many of Oregon’s smaller and more rural areas have limited emergency response resources, let alone capabilities to deal with hazardous materials such as LNG that could devastate their communities,” the senators wrote.

In August 2019, Wyden introduced a bill to improve safety of oil trains and protect local communities against derailments.

A copy of the letter is available here.

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