Ohio senators blast Norfolk Southern for train derailment

Posted By on March 10, 2023

Ohios two US senators had a bipartisan moment Thursday as they ripped into Norfolk Southern over the Feb. 3 train derailment that spilled thousands of gallons of toxic chemicals in the village of East Palestine accusing the railroad of putting profits over people and demanding that the company institutesafety reforms.

The companyfollowed the Wall Street business model: Boost profits by cutting costs at all costs. The consequences for places like East Palestine be damned, Democrat Sherrod Brown said in an opening statement at a Senate hearing on the disaster.

Brown noted that in the past 10 years, Norfolk Southern had cut 38% of its workforce while spending $3.4 billion on stock buybacks.

Thats money that could have gone to hiring inspectors,to putting more hotbox detectors along its rail lines, to having more workers available to repair cars and repair tracks, he said. Norfolk Southern, its profits have gone up and up and up and look what happened.

Browns Republican colleague, JD Vance,also attacked Norfolk Southern and the railroad industry, accusing it of lobbying lawmakers against safety enhancements for three decades.

This is an industry that enjoys special subsidies that almost no industry enjoys. This is an industry that enjoys special legal carveouts that almost no industry enjoys, Vance told the SenateEnvironment and Public Works Committee.

Now theyre claiming before the Senate and the House that ourreasonable regulation is somehow a violation of the free market. Well, pot, meet the kettle, because that doesnt make an ounce of sense. You cannot claim special government privileges, you cannot ask the government to bail you out, and then resist basic public safety, he added.

Vance and Brown, along with Pennsylvania Democratic Sens. Bob Casey and John Fetterman, have introduced the Railway Safety Act of 2023 in response to the East Palestine disaster, which also has the support of GOP Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Josh Hawley of Missouri.

The bill would impose new requirements for checking the temperature of wheel bearings believed to be the cause of the Ohio wreck and mandate safety procedures for trains carrying hazardous material, as well as require that such trains have two crew members versed in dealing with such material on board at all times.

Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw began his opening statement before the panel apologizing to the people of East Palestine, the small Ohio River community that has been struggling with the aftermath of the derailment and toxic chemical spill.

I want to begin today by expressing how deeply sorry I am for the impact this derailment had on the residents of East Palestine and the surrounding communities, he said. I am determined to make this right. Norfolk Southern will clean the site safely, thoroughly and with urgency. You have my personal commitment. Norfolk Southern will get the job done and help East Palestine thrive.

The railroad executive said the company has pledged $21 million in assistance for East Palestine alone, along with $7.5 million for communities across the Ohio border in Pennsylvania.

Shaw also said he has added a company employee who lives in East Palestine to his office to act as a special liaison to the community.

We will be in the community for as long as it takes, he said. To be clear, there are no strings attached to our assistance.

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Ohio senators blast Norfolk Southern for train derailment

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