Liquified natural gas can now ship to N.J. by train, despite explosion concerns

The Repauno Site, a former DuPont facility in Gibbstown, N.J. that is being repurposed as a port on the Delaware River. New Fortress Energy has proposed exporting liquified natural gas from the site. (Office of the Attorney General/Tim Larsen)

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The Trump administration has approved the shipment of liquified natural gas from the fracking fields of Pennsylvania to a port on the Delaware River in South Jersey.

The decision is a boost for one company’s proposal to use a Gibbstown port for LNG exports, and a blow to Democratic lawmakers and environmental groups who have raised concerns about the safety of using a largely untested method of transporting the potentially volatile product.

The approval came in the form of a special permit issued last week by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to the Florida-based Energy Transport Solutions, LLC.

Energy Transport Solutions is a subsidiary of New Fortress Energy, according to a Yahoo report.

The permit only allows for LNG rail transportation between Wyalusing, Pennsylvania and Gibbstown in Gloucester County, with no intermediate stops. It is unclear what exact routes Energy Transport Solutions plans to use for moving LNG. The permit expires on November 30, 2021.

Energy Transport Solutions has 90 days from the issuance of the new permit to give more details on its specific plans for moving LNG. The company will be required to give quarterly updates on its LNG delivery work.

Wyalusing is in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale region, where the spread of fracking has created a hub of natural gas production. New Fortress Energy is planning to build a facility in Wyalusing that would liquify natural gas for transportation.

In Gibbstown, New Fortress Energy is potential customer of the Gibbstown Logistics Center, which is being developed by Delaware River Partners, LLC at the former DuPont Repauno site. At that port, New Fortress Energy would load LNG on to tanker ships and for export to customers around the world.

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection has already approved waterfront development permits for the Gibbstown facility, but a state water quality certificate and approvals from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are still needed, according to New Jersey Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel.

“This special permit is a significant milestone that establishes requirements for moving domestic LNG in a safe and efficient manner. It supports our efforts to bring cleaner and more affordable energy to markets that are reliant on oil-based fuels,” New Fortress Energy said in a statement. “We look forward to continuing to work with PHMSA, other regulatory agencies and the railroad industry as this project advances.”

Opponents of using trains to move LNG fear that in an accident, like a derailment, the LNG tanker cars could rupture and explode. U.S. Rep. Tom Malinowski, D-N.J. 7th Dist., is one of multiple Democratic lawmakers who have raised concerns about allowing LNG to be shipped by train.

“The movement of LNG by rail tank car presents unique and substantial risks to public safety and the environment,” Malinowski said in a statement last week. “This decision by the Department of Transportation to allow LNG to move in large volumes without adequate safeguards is irresponsible, and yet another example of the Administration putting corporate interests over the safety of the American public.”

EMPOWER NJ, a coalition of environmental groups opposed to the development of fossil fuel projects in the Garden State, called the PMHSA approval a “a reckless decision that endangers the lives and safety of millions of people in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.”

Tittel said that this approval by the Trump administration makes it even more important that New Jersey and the Delaware River Basin Commission take steps to prevent New Fortress’s Gibbstown proposal from becoming reality.

“Some of our train tracks go back before WWI and are not designed to handle this dangerous cargo,” Tittel said. “The dangers of a possible derailment, spill, or explosion would be catastrophic. This is an accident waiting to happen.”

Michael Sol Warren may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @MSolDub. Find on Facebook.

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