A Trump-era rule that allowed liquefied natural gas (LNG) to be transported by rail in specialized tank cars is being suspended by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), starting Oct. 31, 2023.
DOT issued the rule via the Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA).
The Trump-era rule was issued April 19, 2019 via an executive order that required LNG to be treated the same as other cryogenic liquids.
LNG and similar cryogenic liquids have been transported by highway and rail for decades in the U.S., according to law firm K&L Gates. However, the federal Hazardous Materials Regulations didn’t authorize bulk transport of LNG in rail tank cars, except by special permit.
Legal challenges prevented industry from using shipping method
This final rule on the matter came about amid legal challenges from a group of 14 states, six environmental organizations and the Puyallup Tribe of Indians.
The states involved were California, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and the District of Columbia.
Environmental organizations involved in the legal challenges were Sierra Club, Center For Biological Diversity, Clean Air Council, Delaware Riverkeeper Network, Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida, and Mountain Watershed Association.
The legal challenges, and a PHMSA notice in November 2021 that the rule would possibly be suspended, effectively froze industry efforts to use this shipping method.
One company did receive a special permit in 2019 to ship LNG by rail, but that permit extension request was denied by DOT in April 2023.