Nessel Joins Fight to Keep Railroads Safe in Michigan

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel addresses the media during a news conference in 2020. (AP Photo/David Eggert, File)

By Kyle Kaminski

February 23, 2023

MICHIGAN—More than a dozen trains carrying hazardous materials have been derailed across the US so far this year. And this week, Attorney General Dana Nessel is joining the fight to keep things safe by opposing a company’s request to ship more potentially dangerous chemicals across the US.

A special permit request filed by Gas Innovations LNG Refrigerant Inc. with the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration seeks permission to ship cryogenic liquefied ethane in rail tank cars to undisclosed locations across the country—potentially including Michigan.

Ethane is a colorless, odorless, and highly flammable gas that is commonly used in the petrochemical industry. Shipping cryogenic ethane presents “significant safety challenges,” as any release of cargo is likely to lead to the formation of extremely cold and highly flammable ground-hugging vapor clouds that could endanger nearby communities, officials said.

The permit application doesn’t identify the destinations for its potentially dangerous cargo. Instead, it vaguely suggests that ethane shipments would be delivered to undisclosed facilities in Mexico, Canada and along the Gulf Coast—possibly traveling through the state of Michigan.

Federal regulations do not allow for ethane to be transported via rail car, and the request doesn’t include any data or scientific analysis to suggest that it can be done so safely, Nessel said. The AGs now want the federal agency to reject the application due to possible safety risks.

“Shipping liquefied natural gas by rail has not been proven safe for communities along the train’s routes,” Nessel said in a release. “There have already been more than a dozen derailments this year of trains carrying hazardous materials, which illustrates the danger of transporting these chemicals by rail. Any cities or communities that these chemicals pass through can potentially be in danger of spills and other dangerous contaminants. I stand with my colleagues in urging PHMSA to reject Gas Innovations’ special permit application and protect the air that is so important to the health and well-being of our communities.”


  • Kyle Kaminski

    Kyle Kaminski is an award-winning investigative journalist with more than a decade of experience covering news across Michigan. Prior to joining The ‘Gander, Kyle worked as the managing editor at City Pulse in Lansing and as a reporter for the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

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