Parties renew request for supplemental review of AAF project
According to documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, Martin and Indian River Counties, along with Citizens Against Rail Expansion in Florida (CARE FL), have obtained confirmation of plans to transport liquefied natural gas (LNG) along the Florida East Coast (FEC) corridor—a highly populated, congested route with over 300 at-grade crossings that it plans to share with All Aboard Florida’s (AAF) 110 mph passenger trains. As a result, the Counties and CARE FL have renewed their request with the U.S. Department of Transportation for a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement.
In a March 3, 2016, letter, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) not only confirms the plans to transport LNG, but is also very negative about this controversial proposal that poses a threat to public safety. In it, the agency notes concerns that are similar to those of the Counties and CARE FL regarding transporting LNG as a commodity along the FEC corridor. The letter goes on to highlight the need for further evaluation, lay out specific actions FEC is required to take, including a safety analysis of the rail cars it plans to use to transport LNG, and set forth additional conditions it anticipates imposing on FEC.
Specifically, the FRA states the following regarding Alaska Railroad (ARR), the only other railroad transporting LNG as a commodity in the United States: “The FRA views ARR’s approval as different from a potential FEC approval, due to the significant differences between the two states and the areas through which they would be transporting the product. For example, if ARR transports LNG it will be doing so at 40 mph through mostly unpopulated areas with few highway-rail grade crossings, whereas under FEC’s proposal, trains transporting LNG will pass through highly populated areas, with more frequent crossings, while sharing tracks with passenger trains traveling at 110 mph.”
“The FRA clearly recognizes the inherent danger of fast moving freight trains transporting a volatile substance like LNG passing passenger trains travelling up to 110 mph through our densely populated communities. While the FRA claims it will conduct a thorough evaluation of the safety risks, we believe a thorough review of the environmental impacts is also needed,” said Ruth Holmes, Senior Assistant Martin County Attorney.
The letter further reveals that FEC has had ongoing discussions with the FRA related to the transportation of LNG along the corridor since September 2014. However, no mention of this was included in either the September 2014 Draft Environmental Impact Statement or the August 2015 Final Environmental Impact Statement, even though the proposal is directly related to and clearly impacts the AAF project.
“Once again we have discovered that FEC and AAF are shielding information from the communities they are directly affecting. Transporting a hazardous material like LNG is a major safety risk for our communities and must be thoroughly reviewed and evaluated from every angle,” said Dylan Reingold, Indian River County Attorney.
“The AAF project itself poses a great enough risk to Treasure Coast communities and it is now clear that they intend to increase that risk exponentially by adding an extremely dangerous substance to the mix. Running 110 mph trains and LNG over the same tracks is simply a recipe for disaster,” said Brent Hanlon, Chairman of CARE FL.
Coming on the heels of the news that AAF derailed a passenger train but never publicly disclosed it, the non-public nature of this LNG letter leaves Treasure Coast citizens with even less reason to trust their safety to AAF and FEC.
For more information please visit www.ircgov.com, www.martin.fl.us, and CARE FL’s site at www.saveourfl.com.