The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), in coordination with the Federal Railroad Administration, has issued a final rule that suspends a Trump administration rule that would have allowed liquefied natural gas (LNG) transportation by rail.
The rule had been on hold after environmental groups and 14 states filed lawsuits to challenge it. However, it will be officially suspended so that the safety of LNG-by-rail can be furthered tested and studied, according to a PHMSA notice published today in the Federal Register.
Uncertainty over the rule, which would have required the use of specialized rail tank cars to transport LNG, also has kept companies from investing in such rail cars, according to PHMSA. The final rule takes effect Oct. 31. The freight-rail industry supports allowing LNG to be transported by rail.
Today’s notice also mentions the Feb. 3 derailment of a Norfolk Southern Railway train in East Palestine, Ohio. In that case, none of the 11 tank cars that were carrying combustible liquid and flammable gas hazardous materials were carrying LNG. The derailment resulted in a fire that impacted the derailed tank cars and damaged 12 additional rail cars that had not derailed. Included in the derailment and fire were five DOT–105 specification tank cars containing vinyl chloride, a hazardous material and flammable gas.
Although the DOT–105 specification tank cars were not punctured in the derailment, PHMSA is working with the National Transportation Safety Board to learn all it can from the incident to determine whether the lessons learned could inform rail transportation of other hazardous materials such as LNG.