Environmentalists, Oregon senators oppose DOT increasing transport of natural gas by rail

Environmentalists, Oregon senators oppose DOT increasing transport of natural gas by rail
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Environmentalists as well as Oregon’s two Democratic senators voiced concern Tuesday over Trump administration's plans to ease restrictions on transporting natural gas by rail.

The proposal would allow liquefied natural gas (LNG) to be transported in a wider variety of rail cars, increasing the amount of the highly flammable substance that can be moved by rail.

“LNG transport by rail presents a much more complex set of threats than other hazardous materials,” Oregon Democratic Sens. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenWhoopi Goldberg presses Sanders: 'Why are you still in the race?' Unprecedented health crisis called for historic expansion of unemployment insurance Coronavirus crisis scrambles 2020 political calculus MORE and Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyDemocratic senators ask Pompeo to provide coronavirus aid to Palestinian territories House bill would ban stock trading by members of Congress Lawmakers ask Trump administration to help Gulf oil and gas producers MORE wrote in a letter to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT).

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“This includes possible explosive events with a radius of up to a mile and fires that burn at far higher temperatures than crude oil or gasoline fires and are extremely difficult to put out.”  

The letter nods to a massive explosion in Oregon in 2016 after a train carrying LNG derailed.

Asked for comment, a DOT spokesperson said the agency considers safety a top priority and "will evaluate all public comments and concerns raised throughout the rulemaking process."

Environmental group Earthjustice also opposed the proposal on grounds that it would be too dangerous.

"It would only take 22 tank cars to hold the equivalent energy of the Hiroshima bomb,” the group wrote in its comments. 

The group goes on to criticize DOT for failing to suggest additional safety precautions even though many trains often carry long stretches of railcars.

“Despite acknowledging the risks,” the group says of DOT, it “does not propose any safety precautions or operational restrictions to prevent 110‐car unit trains from traveling through major population centers with the equivalent energy of 5 Hiroshima bombs.”

Updated 4:06 p.m.