What is a "Bomb Train" and why has the Trump administration legalized them?

From Rolling Stone:

A new Trump administration rule relaxing guidelines that govern the transport of liquefied natural gas could create "bomb trains" with enough explosive power to level whole cities, environmental groups say. A coalition of organizations led by the nonprofit Earthjustice has sued the administration, challenging the rule, which is scheduled to go into effect on Monday.  

Separately, 14 states and the District of Columbia are also suing the Trump administration to review the rule and declare it unlawful. The National Transportation Safety Board and the National Association of State Fire Marshals oppose it as well.

This is hardly the first reckless reversal of environmental or infrastructural regulations that's happened under the Trump Administration. But even among those other Fossil Fuel-friendly cuts, this sounds uniquely terrifying.

According to EarthJustice, an organization that's suing the administration to reverse this change:

It would only take 22 tank cars to hold the equivalent energy of the Hiroshima bomb. A train of 110 tank cars filled with liquefied natural gas would have five times the energy of the Hiroshima bomb.


The existing federal regulations around liquefied natural gas have considered it far too dangerous to transport in tank cars. Companies can transport the explosive liquid fuel by ship or truck. Special exceptions were available for rail transport, but only if the fuel was carried in UN-approved tanks. (While Trump has clearly been eager to please the Fossil Fuel industry during his time in office, I wouldn't be surprised if he xenophobically reveled in yet another opportunity to stick it to the UN.)

This isn't just environmental paranoia or a general outrage at the fossil fuel industry, either; there's historical precedent that this stuff is dangerous. Also from EarthJustice:

In one of the worst examples of this danger, 131 people were killed, countless people were injured, and a square mile of Cleveland, Ohio, was destroyed when liquefied natural gas escaped from a tank farm, flowed into the city's sewer system and ignited in 1944.

In the numerous explosions that followed, temperatures soared to 3,000°F, streets blew up, with one explosion opening a crater 25 feet deep, 30 feet wide, and 60 feet long.

While a 30mph impact with one of these train cars is considered disastrous, the new rules would suggest that trains carrying liquefied natural gas adhere to a voluntary 50mph speed limit. They'd also be allowed to travel through populated areas, as opposed to routing through the countryside.


New Trump Rule Could Create 'Bomb Trains,' Environmentalists Say [Tessa Stuart / Rolling Stone]

What You Should Know About Liquefied Natural Gas and Rail Cars [EarthJustice]

Image: Public Domain via Needpix