Nessel Joins Coalition Opposing Proposal to Permit Transportation of Liquefied Natural Gas by Rail

Contact: Kelly Rossman-McKinney 517-335-7666
Agency: Attorney General

January 15, 2020

LANSING- Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel on Monday joined 15 other Attorneys General in urging the Trump Administration to withdraw a proposal that would allow for the bulk transport of liquefied natural gas (LNG) along existing rail corridors without any added safety measures.  

The letter was filed in response to the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking issued by the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA). In their letter, the Attorneys General called on the agency to withdraw its proposal until PHMSA and the Federal Railways Administration complete safety studies and then develop a full Environmental Impact Statement that rigorously considers the public safety and climate change implications of permitting the nationwide transport of LNG by rail.  

LNG is an extremely hazardous substance. If not stored at -260℉ or lower, it will quickly turn into natural gas—a highly flammable, odorless, and potentially explosive substance. Federal hazardous materials regulations currently do not permit LNG to be transported by rail, but an Executive Order signed by President Trump in April 2019 directed the U.S. Department of Transportation to propose a rule to permit the transportation of LNG in approved rail tank cars.

“Allowing the transportation of Liquefied Natural Gas along our railways without fully analyzing the safety risks has the potential to put our residents and our environment in danger,” Nessel said. “This is yet another attack on states’ efforts to protect our residents and environment, and my colleagues and I strongly oppose the federal government on this.”  

Michigan’s railway system is composed of approximately 3,600 miles of tracks. Allowing the bulk transport of LNG along those tracks through Michigan—including through densely populated areas—would create significant and serious risks of catastrophic accidents.  Additionally, the increased use of natural gas that would occur as a result of this proposal would result in greater emissions of carbon dioxides, which pose a threat to the environment.

The proposal lacks basic safety precautions to lower the risk of catastrophic accidents—especially in heavily populated areas. The National Environmental Policy requires federal agencies to adequately evaluate the environmental and climate impacts of expanding access to natural gas— a potent source of greenhouse gases. This proposal fails to meet this requirement. Furthermore, the proposal was hastily rolled out before critical safety studies were completed.

Nessel joins the Attorneys General of California, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington in urging the federal agency to withdraw its rule.   

A copy of the letter is available here.

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