In March, President Biden and the European Commission President announced a joint task force with the goal of getting more U.S. Liquified Natural Gas to Europe.
Much of the LNG that will be shipped to Europe will come from fracked natural gas extracted from the Marcellus and Utica black shale formations in Ohio, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the problem is that gas from these areas has a particularly high level of radioactivity — which presents an extra risk in both the production and distribution stages.
The radioactive gas radon, which is the second leading cause of lung cancer deaths in the United States, travels with the natural gas stream itself. Radon will break down into radioactive lead-210 and polonium-210, one of the most toxic substances on earth — which was famously used in 2006 by Russian assassins to kill the former spy Alexander Litvinenko.
Converting and cooling the natural gas to a liquid allows 600 times more gas to be packed into each rail car. That will result in LNG unit trains hundreds of cars long carrying large amounts of explosive radioactive liquid through our city — with catastrophic consequences if there is a derailment. This concentrated radioactivity explains why — until the last administration, transport of LNG by rail was never permitted.
Looking ahead, in addition to all the other risks we have covered, because of the increase in train volume the radioactive contamination risks posed by an LNG train derailment will be increased with the opening of the Shell Cracker Plant in Beaver County this year.
In 2016, Houston-based Cheniere Energy opened the first LNG export terminal in the continental United States. Now there are eight facilities nationwide, with an additional 15 export terminals approved by FERC and seven more with applications pending— all of which means massive quantities of radioactive LNG will be traveling by rail through your Pittsburgh community without your help.
Communities in the Marcellus and Utica regions have already been beleaguered by an array of radiological concerns, from fires and spills at facilities processing radioactive oilfield waste, to the discharge of this waste into drinking water supplies, to high levels of radioactivity found on public roads and along rail lines.
Enesta Jones, a spokesperson for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), said, “EPA does not regulate radioactivity in oil and gas production, processing and transport systems.” Similarly, a representative from FERC said the agency does not track oilfield radioactivity and “is also not involved in monitoring which countries, ports, or facilities receive US LNG.”
In the United States, research into radioactivity in oil and gas goes back more than 50 years, yet no comprehensive nationwide rules exist to protect workers and communities from its potential harms. That failure to protect citizens is directly related to the activities of the Rail and Oil & Petroleum lobbies.
Given such administrative oversight — and the fact that the Department of Transportation has not determined if LNG can safely be transported in rail cars, it is time to reach out directly to DOT Secretary Pete Buttigieg.
RP3 is part of a national communications campaign urging Secretary Buttigieg to ban LNG by rail: www.BanLNGbyRail.com. Our campaign is included in Politico Energy’s morning newsletter where you will also find a great educational video.
If you can, please share it on social media today using #BanLNGbyRail and Secretary Buttigieg’s social handles (@SecretaryPete and @PeteButtigieg). Here are some sample tweets and a Facebook post:
.@SecretaryPete, please ban radioactive liquefied natural gas (LNG) by rail! It's a reckless Trump-era policy that endangers public safety and the #Climate www.BanLNGbyRail.com #BanLNGbyRail @USDOT @PeteButtigieg
LNG by rail is an extreme fossil fuel industry idea that endangers communities and is disastrous for the climate. As head of @USDOT, @SecretaryPete can and must ban it! www.BanLNGbyRail.com #BanLNGbyRail @PeteButtigieg
.@SecretaryPete, please be a public safety and climate leader and #BanLNGbyRail! It’s an extremely dangerous process that the Trump Administration fast-tracked despite grave health and environmental risks and impacts.www.BanLNGbyRail.com @USDOT @PeteButtigieg
Sample Facebook post:
Transporting liquefied natural gas (LNG) by rail is one of the fossil fuel industry’s most extreme ideas. Just 22 LNG rail cars would have the explosive power of the Hiroshima bomb. It endangers public safety and is disastrous for the climate.
Dept. of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg can and must ban LNG by rail to protect our communities, drinking water, and climate. Learn more and take action now: www.BanLNGbyRail.com