California Attorney General's Office

08/18/2020 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 08/18/2020 11:54

Attorney General Becerra Files Lawsuit Challenging Trump Administration Rule Allowing Rail Transport of Highly Flammable Gas

SACRAMENTO - California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, as part of a coalition of 15 attorneys general, today filed a lawsuit in the D.C. Circuit challenging the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration's (PHMSA) final rule allowing the nationwide transport of liquefied natural gas, or LNG, by rail for the first time ever. LNG is a highly flammable hazardous material that poses serious risks to health, safety, and property when transported. In the lawsuit, the coalition intends to argue that PHMSA's failure to evaluate the environmental impacts of the rule is unlawful and that the rule lacks the necessary safety requirements to minimize the risk to public safety associated with transporting LNG by rail.

'Californians who live, work, or go to school near train routes are not interested in being specimens in a crash-test laboratory for the Trump Administration,' said Attorney General Becerra. 'Today, we're going to court because our families expect our government to put their safety first, not put them in harm's way. If only the Trump Administration spent as much time trying to solve our current public health crisis as it does creating new public health hazards.'

To make the transport of natural gas possible, the substance must be converted to liquid form. Liquefied natural gas is flammable, odorless, and highly hazardous. Accidents or derailments of trains transporting liquefied natural gas can cause high intensity fires and violent explosions. Natural gas is also a major source of energy and greenhouse gas emissions locally, nationally, and globally. The production and use of natural gas contributed about a quarter of total greenhouse gas emissions in the United States in 2018.

PHMSA is responsible for regulating the transportation of hazardous materials to assure the safety and security of the hazardous materials and to minimize the impacts of any releases of the hazardous material. In allowing the transport of LNG, PHMSA failed to adequately consider the public health and safety risks associated with transporting this highly flammable gas by rail through populated areas and environmentally sensitive habitats. In the lawsuit, the coalition intends to argue that the final rule violates the Administrative Procedure Act, National Environmental Policy Act, and Hazardous Materials Transportation Act.

On January 13, 2020, Attorney General Becerra joined a coalition of 16 attorneys general in filing a comment letter urging PHMSA to retract its proposal for the same reasons the attorney generals are challenging the rule as unlawful and contrary to public safety today.

In filing the lawsuit, Attorney General Becerra joins the attorneys general of New York, Maryland, Delaware, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia.

A copy of the lawsuit can be found here.