The water in East Palestine, Ohio, is rainbow colored. Obviously, that’s not as fanciful as it sounds (Not. Now. Skittles!). As you’ve surely seen, local waterways, air and soil have been contaminated in the wake of a train derailment and subsequent cleanup plan that involved burning a massive volume of vinyl chloride in the Ohio community, and we don’t know the full ramifications to human or ecological life quite yet.
I mean, if we trust officials (the same ones who were in charge of preventing this from happening), it doesn’t sound so bad. The Ohio EPA says municipal water is safe to drink—though major grocer Giant Eagle announced it’d be pulling bottled water sourced near East Palestine (just to be sure), residents are justifiably skeptical (perhaps because of all the dead fish and chickens) and, yeah, there are sheens of multi-colored contamination in waterways, likely caused by oil from the derailment.
So, that’s very bad. It could’ve been much worse. For instance, if the train was carrying liquefied natural gas (LNG), and it derailed in a densely populated area like, say, Camden or any number of South Jersey communities, an explosion could happen, it could be huge, and the toll on human life could be devastating, not to mention the environmental and climate toll such an event would take.
And yet, even as the news from Ohio is still developing, plans to do just that—to transport LNG in untested rail cars through South Jersey communities—is in the works.
Mankind, fucking get it together. Can we be so blinded by profit that we’d risk loss of life—in communities already unduly burdened by environmental issues? (History says… a-YUP!) How can we continue to elect limpdick politicians who can’t stand up to industry in the face of obvious infringements on our rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?
Now look, I don’t want to make the issue any more complicated than “Let’s not have literal bombs bouncing up and down on old New Jersey railroads”—that’s the synopsis and the argument in one sentence—but here’s a little more context anyway.
New Fortress Energy has put plans in motion to build a natural gas liquefaction plant in Wyalusing, Pennsylvania, and ship that shit via rail 200 miles to an export facility, likely in Gibbstown, NJ.
Transporting LNG by rail is dangerous, well, we’re assuming it is, because it’s never been done before in the U.S. … because it’s likely very dangerous. It would likely be carried in outdated tankers that have never been tested to carry such a volatile substance, and if a mere fraction of these trains—which often extend upward of 100 cars—explodes, it’d unleash the power of the Hiroshima bomb. And lest you think derailment is a mere possibility, there are about 1,700 such instances each year, and the frequency of these trains could be up to two times per day.
OK, so we shouldn’t do it right? That’s generally been the stance of the federal government and regulators, but Donald Trump, a noted idiot, suspended the ban on LNG transport by rail in 2020. The Biden administration has said it will reinstate the ban, but (at least as of this publication) it has delayed doing so. Perhaps—and not to sound too conspiratorial—it’s because the Biden administration has vowed to increase LNG exports to Europe to lessen dependence on Russian fossil fuels.
Which brings us to the export terminal. The Delaware River Basin Commission, made up of the governors of NJ, New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware and a rep from the Army Corps of Engineers, and which is charged with overseeing industry on the river, recently extended the permit for a subsidiary of New Fortress Energy to build the export port in Gibbstown. Now there’s some judicial back-and-forth and uncertainty about the permits going forward—and some uncertainty about the plant in Wyalusing—but the bottom line is, New Fortress may, at any time, renew its push to carry LNG by rail, and without intervention from state and federal regulators, this plan forged in capitalist hell can continue.
Which is where we come in. You can ask Mayor Pete (who’s looking like a real good presidential candidate right now) and his Department of Transportation to deny the special permit and to finalize the rule that permanently bans LNG transport by rail; do so at linktr.ee/nolngbyrail.
And we can ask our great “green” governor Phil Murphy to follow up on his promise to do everything in his power to kill the plant in Gibbstown—which would start by building a time machine and going back in time to deny the permit extension for New Fortress. Because if we’re serious about environmental justice and our green futurePhil, Joe and Pete, then we simply can’t do this.