Two Local Congressmen Vote to Ban LNG on the Rails
Last week, both Treasure Coast Congressmen Bill Posey and Brian Mast voted in favor of an amendment prohibiting the transport of liquefied natural gas by rail tank car under consideration by the Secretary of Transportation. The vote took place on June 24 when the House considered HR Bill 3055 of the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2020. The amendment, sponsored by Rep. DeFazio of Oregon, was passed as was the full bill.
As Rep. Posey’s staff reported, “The congressman understands the need for efficient transport of energy products but putting LNG through our densely populated coastal communities makes no sense.” Through Executive Order, the Trump administration requested the US Dept. of Transportation fast track approvals for rail freight systems applying to carry the highly volatile liquid gas.
Rep. DeFazio commented on the Department’s plan to issue a special permit to carry LNG on the rails, “Should even one tank car get punctured, the results could be devastating. …I urge the Senate to follow suit and stop a massive catastrophe before it’s too late.”
The Florida Alliance for Safe Trains has expressed concern that Florida East Coast Rail, which shares the tracks with Virgin Trains USA, is already carrying LNG from Hialeah to the Port of Miami. The Alliance recognizes FECR’s plan to carry LNG to all of the deep water ports in Florida while sharing the tracks with Virgin’s 100 mph trains on the route to Orlando and eventually Tampa and Jacksonville.
“Nowhere in the world do higher speed trains share the rails with LNG or any hazardous material of this nature,” said Susan Mehiel, spokesperson for the Alliance. “Experts tell us that the US DOT has not increased the regulations for LNG over and above those for oil trains and we know what has happened with the so-called ‘bomb trains’.”
Another recent railroad regulation change has major implications for the Treasure and Space Coasts. In 2016, when questioned about delays at grade crossings caused by stalled trains, the Federal Railroad Administration wrote they have proposed a rule requiring 2-person minimum crews on trains. “At least two crew members are needed to efficiently separate a train and allow highway users to pass through a crossing in emergency situations.”
However, the FRA withdrew the proposed rule in May of this year. “With 150 grade crossings through the Space and Treasure Coasts, trains blocking major roadways like the FP&L Nuclear Power Plant evacuation routes and hospital access puts our communities in grave danger,” Mehiel explained. “Without the 2-person minimum, critical roads could be blocked for hours.”
80 people have died on Florida’s railroads in the last eighteen months. The Alliance wants the Governor and Florida Transportation Secretary Thibault to address this epidemic proportion and call on the FRA to consider the impact of the federal regulations on the lives of Floridians. As Mehiel said, “With 80 deaths on Florida’s rail systems, what we need is an investigation into these accidents and not the additions of speed trains going over 100 mph and LNG!”