Gibbstown Ends, Not with a Bang but with a Whimper?

While the Department of Transportation proposed rescinding the LNG by rail rule, the Department must still adopt this proposal.

LNG tanker taking on cargo at a gas plant

Credit: kenhodge13. Licensed under CC BY 2.0

Update: New Fortress Energy may have applied to renew the special permit on the day the permit was set to expire.  If this is the case, it is even more important to ensure that US DOT permanently restores its categorical ban on LNG by rail.  NRDC will also work to ensure that Gibbstown's special permit is not renewed.

The future of the Gibbstown liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal is looking bleaker by the day. The project hit two obstacles in the past 4 weeks, and advocates, including NRDC, are wondering whether the construction of this planet-warming, water-polluting, community-endangering fossil fuel project may be dying a slow death.

If built, the Gibbstown LNG terminal would move hazardous liquefied fracked gas from an LNG terminal in Wyalusing Township, Pennsylvania, by truck and rail over 200 miles to an LNG terminal in Gibbstown, New Jersey. The gas would then be sent down the Delaware River on massive shipping vessels for sale overseas. 

If allowed to go forward, this terminal would accelerate the climate crisis, pollute the Delaware River, and endanger nearby communities.

LNG is primarily composed of methane, a greenhouse gas that is 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a 20-year horizon. As U.S. climate envoy John Kerry has noted, cutting methane emissions is “the single fastest strategy that we have to keep a safer, 1.5-degree Centigrade future within reach.” If LNG exports increase as projected, the LNG industry by itself will generate enough greenhouse gas emissions to extinguish all progress we’ve made to lower emissions during the past decade.

LNG is also extraordinarily dangerous to transport by truck and rail. LNG is highly flammable and explosive—consequently, transporting LNG can expose fence-line communities to uncontrollable fires and devastating explosions.

And construction of the Gibbstown LNG terminal would contaminate the Delaware River with dangerous levels of PCBs, a toxic chemical that can cause a number of health conditions, including cancer.

To supply the Gibbstown facility with LNG, developer New Fortress Energy and its subsidiaries plan on shipping the bulk of the LNG by rail.  To do this, they need 1 of 2 things—either (1) a federal rule allowing the shipment of LNG by rail without a special permit; or (2) a special permit to ship LNG by rail.

Under the Trump administration, the U.S. Department of Transportation provided New Fortress Energy and its subsidiaries with both the rule and a special permit. But under new leadership, the Department of Transportation has taken a different position on this deadly activity.  Earlier this month, it proposed suspending the Trump-era LNG-by-rail rule, citing uncertainties related to its safe transportation and its potential to accelerate the climate crisis. 

And according to Delaware Riverkeeper Network, New Fortress Energy has not applied to renew its special permit, which is set to expire today, November 30.  Without either an LNG-by rail-rule or a special permit, there’s no clear way for New Fortress Energy to ship the LNG by rail. 

One possible rail route for the project.

Credit: Map made by FracTracker Alliance and published by Delaware Riverkeeper Network.

Without the possibility of shipping LNG by rail, Gibbstown would have to ship all of its LNG by truck—requiring more than 8,000 truck trips per day, running through communities throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

So without a way to ship LNG by rail to the facility, is the Gibbstown LNG terminal dead?

While this is not yet a running-in-the-streets, ding-dong-the-witch-is-dead moment, this ill-advised project may not have many lives left. While New Fortress Energy can re-apply for the special permit in the future, the fact that it didn’t bother to renew it reveals that they may agree that the Gibbstown LNG terminal is on its last legs.

Please help us stop it for good.

While the Department of Transportation proposed rescinding the LNG by rail rule, the Department must still adopt this proposal.  To deal the knockout blow to the Gibbstown LNG project, we must ensure that the Trump-era LNG by rail rule is permanently rescinded and the transportation of LNG by rail is categorically banned. 

Ask the Department of Transportation to stop not just this project, but any future projects like this one from going forward by restoring its ban on the transportation of LNG by rail.

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