PHMSA asks NPRM to temporarily suspend LNG transport by rail
On November 8, 2021, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) issued a Notice of proposed regulations (NPRM) to propose a temporary suspension of the transport of liquid natural gas (LNG) by rail in certain DOT113 specification tank cars, previously authorized under the Trump administration’s July 2020 rule (LNG by Rail final rule) .
Specifically, the PHMSA proposes to suspend the transport of LNG by rail under the final rule of LNG by rail while it “conducts an in-depth assessment of the HMR regulatory framework for the transport of LNG by rail in a regulation”. related under RIN 2137-AF54, and determine if any changes are necessary. “The PHMSA proposes to add a new special provision 439 to 49 CFR 172.102, which would prohibit the transport of LNG in tank cars until the PHMSA completes a separate regulatory proceeding. under NIR 2137-AF54 or until June 30, 2024, whichever occurs first.
According to the PHMSA, the NPRM comes after heightened uncertainty about the potential benefits and risks to safety and the environment of LNG rail transport under the Hazardous Materials Regulations (Hazardous Materials Regulations). In explaining the rationale for the temporary suspension, the PHMSA cites several information gaps, including those identified by the Transportation Research Board (TRB) in its Phase I report (released June 15, 2021). In particular, the PHMSA notes gaps in information regarding testing and risk assessment for public safety and the environment (e.g. regarding large-scale impact testing, pool fire testing, worst case analysis and quantitative risk assessment). The agency also says there have been shifts in supply and demand in international LNG markets, which has led PHMSA to believe there is more “uncertainty now than when the rule LNG by rail final has been published as to whether, when and where tank car transport of LNG – and by extension, all the potential benefits and risks to public safety / the environment – will materialize. “
The PHMSA concludes that the temporary suspension would not have “a significant negative impact on serious trust interests” in part because the transport of LNG by tank car has not yet taken place since the entry into force of the final rule of LNG by rail in August 2020. Transportation of LNG by rail can still occur if it is licensed under a special permit from the PHMSA or in a portable tank approved by the Federal Railroad Administration.
Comments on the proposed rule are expected on December 23, 2021. The PHMSA is specifically seeking comments on (1) the potential economic, public safety and environmental benefits and negative impacts of NPRM and (2) the duration of the suspension period.