FIRST ON FOX: Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Rep. Sam Graves, R-Mo., are leading a bicameral effort opposing the Biden administration’s action last month prohibiting companies from transporting liquefied natural gas (LNG) via rail.
Cruz, the ranking member of the Senate Commerce Committee, and Graves, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, penned a letter Wednesday co-signed by 23 fellow GOP lawmakers to Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) Deputy Administrator Tristan Brown, expressing concern with her agency’s actions.
“This suspension, which is the latest attack in the Biden administration’s war on American energy, calls into question PHMSA’s commitment to its safety mission, PHMSA’s role in promoting the administration’s extreme green policies, and whether PHMSA will ever reasonably allow for the movement of LNG by rail,” the lawmakers wrote to Brown.
“We ask you to reverse this misstep or, at a minimum, ensure rules going forward focus on PHMSA’s safety mission and strongly consider cost-benefit analysis.”
On Sept. 1, PHMSA, a Transportation Department agency, issued a federal rule suspending a 2020 authorization of LNG transportation in rail tank cars granted under the Trump administration. The rule will remain in effect until either a permanent rule regarding LNG rail tank car transportation is proposed and finalized — a process that may take several months — or June 30, 2025.
In their letter, the 25 Republicans argued PHMSA is primarily a safety agency, not an environmental agency, and that LNG transportation by rail has been proven safe and reliable. And they pointed to PHMSA’s own data showing the movement of hazardous materials by highway is inherently less safe for the public.
They further stated the rule was part of a broader attack on domestic fossil fuel production that “willfully ignores the attendant harms to consumers and national security.”
“This effort comes from the highest level of the administration, as President Biden specifically targeted PHMSA’s LNG by rail rule through an alarmist, anti-fossil fuel executive order purporting ‘to Tackle the Climate Crisis.’ After President Biden explicitly targeted the LNG by rail rule, PHMSA issued a proposal to suspend the LNG by rail rule later that year,” the letter adds.
And the lawmakers said PHMSA’s suggestion that the rule is temporary is a “smokescreen for intended permanent deterrence” of LNG rail transportation.
“Perversely, PHMSA’s participation in an all-out effort against American energy production works against the goal it purports to serve,” the lawmakers wrote. “PHMSA declares that the suspension ‘avoid[s] potential risks to public health and safety or environmental consequences (to include direct and indirect greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions).’
“In reality, the United States has led the world in reducing carbon emissions since peaking in 2007, largely because of America’s development and use of affordable and clean natural gas,” the Republicans added. “Greater transportation of LNG by rail would give Americans an affordable and environmentally responsible option to meet their energy needs. Suspension of the LNG by rail rule is mere virtue signaling, not progress in reducing emissions.”
PHMSA said its Sept. 1 rule provides sufficient time to complete ongoing testing and evaluation efforts regarding LNG rail transportation and allows development of mitigation measures for such transportation.
“Advancing rail safety measures that are based on the best available science and testing is crucial to keeping communities safe,” Brown told Fox News Digital in a statement last month.
“This suspension will give time for PHMSA, in conjunction with the National Academies of Sciences and Engineering as well as its Canadian regulator counterparts, to complete critical research on transporting cryogenic liquids like LNG (and hydrogen) by rail more safely. This research is expected to conclude in the next year or so and will inform future federal safety regulations from PHMSA and the FRA.”
The move came after the Sierra Club and several other environmental organizations, like Earthjustice, Natural Resources Defense Council and Food & Water Watch, argued that allowing LNG transportation could be hazardous to communities. The groups have said LNG is highly flammable and vulnerable to devastating explosions which could destroy communities railroads cut through.
Democratic lawmakers, led by Rep. Chrissy Houlahan, D-Pa., additionally wrote to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg earlier this year, asking for a permanent ban on LNG transportation via rail and pointed to safety risks cited by environmental groups.
In June 2020, the Trump administration announced it had finalized a rule allowing the rail shipment of LNG. Former Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said the agency had put new safeguards in place to prevent dangerous accidents.
The rule was challenged in court by environmental groups but received support from Republicans and the rail industry, which said it was committed to freight rail transportation safety.
“The extended hold of the rule for transporting LNG by rail is disappointing,” Railway Supply Institute President Patty Long said last month. “Transporting LNG has a proven safety record, and with our country continuing to face rising energy prices, we should be incentivizing critical infrastructure that can provide additional capacity to the U.S.
“We should not have to rely on foreign sources of LNG to meet demand in certain parts of the country.”