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The issue of whether the current administration will continue to allow Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) under pressure to be transported by rail could be decided by the end of this month.  It is imprudent to transport LNG next to higher center of gravity, less stable double stack trains on a zigzag route through Pittsburgh. 

Just 22 tank cars hold the equivalent energy of the Hiroshima bomb (which is why they are dubbed "bomb trains"). 

Transporting LNG in rail cars poses unique hazards. If there is a container breach such as a derailment, the super-cooled (-260 degrees F) liquid methane is released as a vapor cloud that is 600 times greater than the volume of the liquid, causing freeze burns and robbing oxygen from the air for those in proximity, which can be deadly[1]. The vapor cloud can disperse and travel very quickly.

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’s Environmental Assessment[2] issued in 2019 describes response to a broken cryogenic tank car as very difficult for first responders and fire companies, and risks catastrophe due to the great potential for explosions and large fires. The response is essentially to evacuate the area since a methane gas-fueled fire cannot be extinguished. The result is not only fire but can also result in a bomb-like explosion that is similar to a thermogenic event - literally a bomb. LNG can cause a catastrophic BLEVE or Boiling Liquid Expanding Vapor Explosion under certain conditions. These public safety hazards are why LNG transport by rail car was entirely banned until the last administration.  

LNG is liquefied methane. Methane is a greenhouse gas 86 times more powerful than carbon dioxide in heating the atmosphere on a 20-year time scale and 104 times more powerful over a 10-year period, the periods of time when scientists say we must reduce greenhouse gas emissions to address the climate crisis. Methane leaks are vented in all phases of the LNG production process, including storage, transport, transloading and use. The Biden administration has pledged to slash methane emissions. Pushing LNG onto train tracks, enabling export of LNG overseas, and stepping up gas extraction does the opposite. 

If you haven’t already signed, please join RP3 in signing our joint petition to ban LNG by rail.  The petition will be submitted this week.

[1] SP 20534 Special Permit to transport LNG by rail in DOT-113C120W rail tank cars. Final Environmental Assessment. Docket No. PHMSA-2019-0100. December 5, 2019. P, 11.
Rail Pollution Protection Pittsburgh
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