Fracked Gas Bomb Trains Are Moving Through South Florida

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Climate and Energy

By Michelle Allen and Phoebe Galt

A dense coastal landscape, Broward County never expected to be a battlefield for the fossil fuel industry. More accustomed to tourists and traffic jams than drilling and hazardous trucks, Broward County wanted to keep it that way. So they banned fracking. Within a year, the fracked gas industry moved to town, undeterred, with their latest scheme. It was a liquefied fracked gas (LNG) export out of Broward’s busy Port Everglades.

Now, LNG tankers dock alongside cruise ships, as New Fortress Energy quietly expands fossil fuel operations in South Florida. Fracked gas from out of state is brought via pipeline to a liquefaction facility in Medley. That’s where it is transformed from a volatile gas to a volatile liquid – liquefied fracked gas. That is then loaded onto truck and rail cars and transported over 30 miles to Port Everglades, where it’s Caribbean-bound. 

Transporting Volatile Fracked Gas Puts Floridians Directly In Harm’s Way

LNG transport and export keep our region locked into the very fossil fuels supercharging climate chaos, threatening our drinking water and way of life. It’s also putting Floridians directly in harm’s way. Liquefied fracked gas is no safer than regular fracked gas. It’s extremely volatile — leaks at the Medley facility or in transport to Port Everglades can form a flammable vapor cloud. If ignited, these vapor clouds can cause explosions up to a mile wide. 

Those explosions have been fatal. In 2020, A gas tanker truck in China exploded on the highway, killing 19 and injuring over 100 people. It’s simply too dangerous to put trucks carrying volatile liquefied fracked gas on the roads, especially on high traffic highways like I-95 where a collision with a vehicle could spell disaster. 

South Floridians are Unknowing Volunteers In A Dangerous Bomb Train Experiment

The use of trains in transporting liquefied fracked gas is new, untested, and extremely dangerous. South Florida is one of only three U.S. cities where the hazardous material can legally be transported by rail. All three of these dangerous rail transport approvals occurred during the Trump Administration. The Biden Administration has taken steps against the dangerous practice but stopped short of ending rail transport in South Florida. That makes South Floridians unknowing volunteers in a dangerous bomb train experiment.   

To make matters worse, South Florida’s liquefied fracked gas “bomb trains” are transported on the same rail line as Brightline. That’s the high-speed train with the highest death rate of any line in the U.S. Adding fracked gas bomb trains to the mix, sharing tracks with passenger rail, is a terrible idea. 

Despite Immense Risks, This Fracked Gas Project Escaped Public Oversight 

South Florida’s liquefied fracked gas export operation has been active for several years, but not many people know about it. Why? Because New Fortress Energy, the company behind the scheme, sought as few permits as possible, generating almost no public oversight.

First, the corporation used loopholes in federal law to evade the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) jurisdiction. FERC is supposed to oversee gas liquefaction facilities, but New Fortress Energy successfully argued their way out of that process. New Fortress Energy got an air permit from Miami-Dade for the liquefaction facility. However, there wasn’t any oversight from the Broward County Commission when Port Everglades struck a deal with New Fortress Energy. This lack of government oversight means there were too few opportunities for public input. The public deserves an opportunity to weigh in on an operation that puts so many directly in harm’s way. 

The Broward County Commission Must Halt The Transport of Liquefied Fracked Gas At Port Everglades

For too long, South Floridians have been subjected to the dangers of New Fortress Energy’s profiteering liquefied fracked gas transport. Luckily, the Broward County Commission can do something about it. We’re calling on the Broward County Commission to halt the transport of liquefied fracked gas and investigate the risky operation.  

Port Everglades’ project was the first liquefied fracked gas export project in Florida. Not only has it endangered South Florida residents, but it sparked a push from the fossil fuel industry for more. Jacksonville is now also home to fracked gas exports. Alarmingly, there have been proposals for even more, including in the Panhandle and Tampa Bay. Furthermore, last fall New Fortress Energy doubled its operation in South Florida, sending more liquefied fracked gas into Broward communities. What’s to stop them from continuing to expand? 

The Broward County Commission must halt the transport of liquefied fracked gas and conduct an investigation into the operation.

Urge Broward County Commissioners to protect the public from this danger.

We Defeated A Sneaky LNG Proposal, But It Won’t Be The Last We Need To Fight In Florida

Categories

Climate and Energy

by Michelle Allen

Strom Inc. probably hoped we would never find out what they were trying to get approved. But while working on passing a local measure in front of the Tampa City Council to end fossil fuel use and transition to 100% renewables, imagine our surprise when we learned about a proposed Tampa fracked gas project that had been quietly moving forward for years. 

Not only did Food & Water Watch bury that plan to transport dangerous bomb trains through Tampa and deal a blow to a proposed Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) site nearby, on August 5th, Food & Water Watch succeeded in getting the Tampa City Council to pass the anti-fossil fuel resolution. This city measure calls on Congressmembers like Tampa Representative Kathy Castor to act boldly to transition us off fossil fuels. But we’re back to the grindstone this week to protect the people and environment from more sneaky fracked gas proposals like the one Strom Inc. tried to get past us all.  

Sneaky Strom Inc. Aimed To Profit From Dangerous, Climate-Threatening Liquefied Natural Gas

Strom Inc. wanted to build a fracked gas liquefaction facility in Crystal River, FL, and transport the resulting LNG over 80 miles to Port Tampa Bay for international export. Strom has received export approval from the Department of Energy. 

LNG is fracked gas that has been supercooled into a liquid form. Once liquefied, it is transported over long distances, including by ship for international export.

At a time when moving away from fossil fuels is critical for avoiding the worst climate impacts — and more officials may act soon in ways that threaten fossil fuel investments — the fossil fuel industry is doubling down on LNG while they can. Buildout of these facilities in Florida is part of a national push by the industry to build LNG export terminals in coastal communities. Two other LNG facilities are already in operation in the Sunshine State, in Jacksonville and Medley. 

Fracking and LNG contribute to climate catastrophe, and the transport of LNG is extremely dangerous due to its flammability. Before LNG is loaded onto ships for international export, it’s transported on trucks or rail cars. These “LNG bomb” trucks and trains have enormous potential energy that rivals atomic bombs, and they’re transporting it on public highways and railways near dense communities, endangering the people who live and work there. 

Strom Inc.’s  proposal to liquefy fracked gas in Crystal River and transport the LNG over 80 miles to Port Tampa Bay by truck or train put millions of Tampa Bay residents at risk — and the government barely blinked an eye. 

If The Government Isn’t Protecting Us From Dangerous LNG Plots, Who Is?

Despite the immense risks posed by Strom Inc.’s LNG proposal, the project has been met with very little government scrutiny. This also means there was no opportunity for public input in Tampa. Alarmed by this, Food & Water Watch worked to bring this dangerous proposal to light. We worked with Tampa Bay Times investigative reporters to dig up more information. That investigation uncovered Strom Inc. had been providing the Department of Energy false information about their project for years

Food & Water Watch also planned actions to bring more public attention to the dangerous LNG proposal. On June 15th, we showed up to the Port Tampa Bay’s board meeting to express our disapproval of plans to export LNG from the port and urge the Board to reject the proposal. During the meeting, the Port’s primary counsel stated that the Port has no plans to export LNG with Strom Inc. Additionally, the Tampa Bay Times’ investigation uncovered Strom Inc. does not have the ability to build their liquefaction plant at the property they’ve been planning around. Since Strom does not have a location to liquefy gas or a port to export it from, this project is effectively dead. Food & Water Watch is working to formalize this victory by urging the Department of Energy to pull Strom’s permits for exporting LNG. 

Food & Water Watch volunteers participated in actions to oppose LNG buildout.

Strom Inc.’s LNG Facility Is Dead In The Water, But What About The Others?

While this LNG proposal in the Tampa Bay region appears to be dead, Florida’s existing LNG facilities continue to pose risks to communities in Miami-Dade and Jacksonville. Similar to Strom’s proposal, the Miami-Dade LNG facility faced very little scrutiny and government oversight, receiving only approvals from the Department of Energy. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is charged with approving and regulating LNG facilities. However, the fossil fuel industry is finding ways to evade FERC oversight, leaving communities in the dark about these projects and without opportunity for input or objections. 

To make matters worse, LNG is also being transported along Florida’s East Coast on the Florida East Coast Railway, putting communities along the train’s route at risk of dangerous LNG “bomb trains.” This LNG infrastructure buildout must be stopped. 

As if the existing facilities aren’t bad enough, the fossil fuel industry continues to plan even more of them in Jacksonville and the Panhandle, and we expect more dangerous proposals. We need sweeping legislation from Congress to ban LNG facilities and export in Florida and everywhere. That’s why we’re launching a campaign opposing the buildout of new LNG infrastructure across Florida. 

You can help. Send your member of Congress a message about banning LNG exports!