Remember the Lac-Megantic rail disaster in Quebec six years ago? Donald Trump apparently doesn’t, but rail workers, citizens and lawmakers concerned about the danger of a natural gas explosion do – and that’s one big reason they’re trying to stop a Trump scheme to ship liquified natural gas by rail in its tracks, literally.
At issue is a plan from Trump’s Transportation Department, specifically from its Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), to let miles-long trains of tank cars filled with liquified natural gas roll through towns and cities.
In an executive order, Trump told DOT on April 10 to draft a rule to let those LNG tank-car trains roll. Liquified natural gas usually goes long distances by pipelines. So does crude oil, but it went by train in Lac-Megantic. Disaster ensued.
On July 6, 2013, a 72-car oil train’s brakes failed and it started to roll seven miles downhill from the siding where it was parked until it crashed, derailed, exploded, and blew up downtown Lac-Megantic. The center of town was destroyed and 47 people died.
Liquified natural gas, also known as methane, is more dangerous, Railroad Workers United – an organization of rank-and-file union freight rail workers nationally – told the PHMSA. So did most of the 2,947 comments on the Trump scheme, which one transportation publication said Trump promulgated at the behest of energy companies and the railroads.
So did Reps. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and Tom Malinowski, D-N.J., whose district is crisscrossed by rail freight lines. DeFazio called Trump’s LNG shipment scheme “beyond absurd.”
After Trump’s executive order, where he compared LNG to “cryogenic” cold liquids, PHMSA put out a 23-page draft environmental assessment advocating giving a waiver to Energy Transport Solutions, LLC, a natural gas company, to let six 100-LNG-tank-car trains roll. The tank car train routes were not specified.
The kindest word the rail workers, the citizens and the lawmakers could find to describe the environmental assessment – which is not a full-blown environmental impact statement the government usually requires for major projects -- was “inadequate.”
The unionists told PHMSA that “rail shipments of LNG would pose dramatic health, safety, and environmental risks to railroad workers and com-munities across the United States.”
“LNG train derailments could cause fires and ex-plosions, property damage, mass injuries and fatalities -- impacts that are largely ignored in PHMSA’s cursory 23-page analysis.”More ...