The Biden administration suspended the transportation of liquefied gas by rail. The decision was made by the Department of Transportation (DOT), currently headed by Pete Buttigieg, in a bid to increase public safety and reduce the likelihood of environmental disasters occurring. The rule dated from 2020 and had been implemented in the first place by the Trump Administration.
The DOT measure will take effect in October and will remain in place until June 2025 or until the agency can post a new supplemental rule. As for the reason for the measure, they explained that it was taken to prevent "potential risks to public health and safety or environmental consequences," as well as to allow more testing to be carried out.
"Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) in coordination with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), is amending the Hazardous Materials Regulations to suspend authorization of liquefied natural gas (LNG) transportation in rail tank cars pursuant to a final rule published on July 24, 2020, pending the earlier of either completion of a companion rulemaking evaluating potential modifications to requirements governing rail tank car transportation of LNG, or June 30, 2025", indicated the government.
The new measure was supported by what happened in East Palestine (Ohio) earlier this year when the derailment of a train caused the release of dangerous chemicals such as vinyl chloride, a highly flammable and potentially carcinogenic toxic gas.
The episode caused a dense smoke that set off alarms at the governor's mansion. Faced with the danger of the explosion, residents on both sides of the border in Ohio and Pennsylvania were ordered to evacuate.
The now-repealed rule dated back to the Trump administration and had been pushed by Elaine Chao, then Secretary of Transportation. "The Department's new rule carefully establishes key operational safeguards to ensure the safe transportation of LNG by rail to more parts of the country where this energy source is needed," she said at the time to support the initiative.
In addition, he assured that the transport of liquefied gas by rail was a completely safe alternative, given that it had an "established history of safety in the transport of other flammable cryogenic materials."