Ohio Derailment Prompts Congressional Panels’ Review of Freight Rail

Ohio Derailment Prompts Congressional Panels’ Evaluation of Freight Rail

This photograph taken with a drone exhibits parts of a Norfolk Southern freight prepare that derailed in East Palestine, Ohio, on Feb. 3. (Gene J. Puskar/AP)

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Transportation committees on Capitol Hill are planning in-depth examinations of the circumstances surrounding the derailment this month of a freight prepare in Ohio.

With the rail trade contributing a key function to the nation’s provide chain, a have a look at freight connectivity can be amongst policymakers’ focus throughout a sequence of upcoming hearings within the Senate and Home.

Coverage hearings will emphasize environmental and regulatory issues, whereas the connectivity of the business transportation sector additionally can be a precedence for lawmakers, senior aides informed Transport Matters.

After a short recess, members of Congress resume their legislative schedule in the course of the week of Feb. 27.

“The latest Norfolk Southern prepare derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, has led to critical well being and security considerations from the encircling communities. Given these considerations, we’ll maintain a committee listening to quickly on the environmental and public well being impacts of this incident,” Sens. Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), chairman and rating member, respectively, of the Surroundings and Public Works Committee on highways, stated Feb. 17.

“Our focus can be to look at the native, state and federal response within the fast aftermath of the prepare derailment and the continuing efforts to wash up poisonous chemical substances within the surrounding setting. We imagine this is a vital step to make sure that response prioritizes the well being and security of these impacted by this horrible accident,” the EPW leaders added.

Commerce Committee Chairwoman Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), the chamber’s high policymaker on freight affairs, is searching for background from railroad corporations about their operations.

“Over the previous 5 years, the Class I railroads have reduce their workforce by almost one third, shuttered rail yards the place railcars are historically inspected, and are working longer and heavier trains. Whereas a few of these modifications could also be an enchancment, in addition they include new dangers that present federal laws might not contemplate,” Cantwell wrote to Alan Shaw, president and CEO of Norfolk Southern, on Feb. 17. “1000’s of trains carrying hazardous supplies, just like the one which derailed in Ohio, journey via communities all through the nation every day. Each railroad should re-examine its hazardous supplies security practices to higher shield its workers, the setting, and American households and reaffirm security as a high precedence.”

On the Home facet, Republican leaders scheduled briefings for the membership of the transportation committee to achieve an understanding of post-derailment efforts and an investigation by the Nationwide Transportation Security Board. Additional oversight centered on rail operations are anticipated.

Democrats on the transportation panel applauded Secretary Pete Buttigieg’s tour of East Palestine on Feb. 23. The journey “will go a good distance in guaranteeing the folks of East Palestine and the encircling communities know their leaders are doing all the pieces doable to make the state of affairs proper,” stated Transportation and Infrastructure Committee rating member Rick Larsen (D-Wash.).

Buttigieg just lately pressed the freight rail trade to boost security and proceed with the deployment of latest inspection applied sciences, proactive advance notification to state emergency response groups, and prioritize paid sick go away for its workforce.

“Revenue and expediency mustn’t ever outweigh the protection of the American folks,” Buttigieg stated previous to his tour of East Palestine. “We at USDOT are doing all the pieces in our energy to enhance rail security, and we insist that the rail trade do the identical — whereas inviting Congress to work with us to boost the bar.”

As a part of a remediation plan, Norfolk Southern introduced it’ll excavate the soil and substitute tracks within the derailment space. After emergency evacuations have been ordered, federal authorities proceed to check air and water high quality.

“In coordination with Ohio and U.S. Environmental Safety Companies, we’re altering our remediation plan to briefly take away the tracks so we are able to excavate the soil,” Shaw stated in a press release Feb. 22. “It is very important me that the members of this neighborhood trust in Norfolk Southern’s remediation efforts and that we’re working carefully with native, state and federal businesses. An vital a part of this plan is to hearken to the considerations of the neighborhood and that’s a major purpose why we’re going to improve our plan.”

In a separate assertion on Feb. 22, Chris Jahn, president and CEO of the American Chemistry Council, an trade stakeholder, stated: “Expertise has proven that advancing security requires us to use the teachings realized from accident investigations and depend on scientific information to find out what security measures will ship the best profit.”

He continued that his group is “dedicated to working with our transportation companions together with policymakers and different stakeholders to advertise the protection of the merchandise of our trade and assist shield the general public from future accidents.”

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