Thursday, September 16, 2021

PHMSA Sends Natural Gas by Rail NPRM to OMB – 9-16-21

Yesterday the OMB’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) announced that it had received a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) from DOT’s Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration (PHSMA) on “Hazardous Materials: Suspension of HMR Amendments Authorizing Transportation of Liquefied Natural Gas by Rail”. This rulemaking was included in the Spring 2021 Unified Agenda.

As I noted back in July this is part of an ongoing activity at PHMSA looking at the safety of the transportation by LNG by rail. According to the abstract in the Unified Agenda listing for the rulemaking:

“PHMSA proposes to amend the Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR) to suspend authorization of liquefied natural gas (LNG) transportation by rail pending completion of the companion rulemaking under RIN 2137-AF54.”

That rulemaking would incorporate the results of ongoing research efforts. Those efforts include work by a committee of independent experts to study the safe transportation of LNG by rail tank car. A pre-publication version of the Phase I study report has been published. Phase II of the study began with a kick-off meeting in June.

In reality, this suspension would have little practical effect since I can find no information that anyone has produced any of the new railcars that the current LNG by rail regulations require railroads to use to transport LNG. Part of the reason for that is that I think everyone understood that the Biden Administration was going to re-look at regulation of LNG by rail, and no one was willing to invest the money in railcars that might not be able to be used for their intended purpose.

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