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Environmental Group Sues Over Alaska's LNG by Rail Program

The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) opposes rail shipments of liquefied natural gas (LNG) in Alaska, and now it's suing to learn more details about the practices after its requests for information were rebuffed by the Federal Railroad Administration, it said.

"The public deserves to know the risks of shipping LNG by rail through Alaska's biggest cities and majestic wilderness. The federal government has an obligation to be transparent before approving or shipping a volatile fossil fuel," said Miyoko Sakashita, a CBD senior attorney. "We know that oil trains and LNG facilities both have deadly histories of explosions, so the secrecy surrounding this project should worry everyone."

The Alaska Railroad plans began a demonstration of containerized LNG rail shipment last September. Intermodal LNG tanks were carried from Southcentral Alaska to the Interior during a month-long project, making the railroad the first in the country to carry LNG. Last year, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) approved the railroad's request to move LNG in an effort to eventually help meet Alaska's growing energy needs, particularly in the Interior.

CBD said it asked FRA for more information about the project before shipments began but was rebuffed. It has now filed a lawsuit under the federal Freedom of Information Act to obtain details about the approval of the shipments and their safety. An FRA spokeswoman told NGI the agency does not comment on pending litigation.

Regardless whether it receives the information it is seeking on the LNG by rail project, CBD opposes it.

"Shipping LNG by rail could expand the use of fossil fuels at a time when the United States is struggling to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to address climate change," it said. “Alaska is the first of several states to pursue such shipping, via its LNG-by-rail pilot program, which has been subjected to minimal public scrutiny."

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