The top row
Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw said Thursday he deeply regrets the impact of the derailment of a train carrying toxic materials last month in East Palestine, Ohio, and admitted the train’s safety standards were not adequate, in the first public his appearance before. the Senate as the company faces scrutiny and lawmakers consider tougher rules on the railroad industry.
Shaw told members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee that the rail line would clean up the site “safely, thoroughly and urgently.”
Shaw also admitted at the hearing, “it’s clear that the safety mechanisms that were in place were not sufficient,” citing a federal report that found the train’s three-man crew was alerted to an overheated wheel bearing shortly before 38 of its cars derailed. which raised questions about railway safety standards.
Lawmakers took aim at the company: In a written statement, Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.)—who is being treated at a Washington, D.C.-area hospital—said that “his hope is that we respond to this disaster that caused by gross negligence on the part of Norfolk Southern with real policy solutions that will hold Norfolk Southern and other similar companies accountable.”
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (RW.V.) also argued that the public “deserved a lot more transparency” from the Environmental Protection Agency following the release of materials into the air and water, asking, “why did it take weeks for the EPA administrator to drink water told residents was safe?”—EPA Regional Administrator Debra Shore responded that the agency was on the ground within hours of the derailment and conducting tests, including “robust air quality testing.”
“I was [to East Palestine] personally, i looked into it [residents’] eyes, I’ve heard their concerns, I’ve been in their family rooms—I’m committed to this community and so is Norfolk Southern,” Shaw said.
“If Norfolk Southern had paid a little more attention to safety and a little less attention to its profits and cared a little more about the Ohioans on its way and a little less about its executives and shareholders, these accidents would not have been so bad, or maybe it wouldn’t have happened at all,” Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) said Thursday.
On the contrary
Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle slammed Norfolk Southern in the wake of the East Palestine derailment. Republicans have also grilled the Biden administration, and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg in particular, for waiting three weeks to visit the derailment, where photos and videos showed toxic material spewing into local creeks. Buttigieg, in response, admitted that he could have visited sooner, but argued that three weeks was the norm. President Joe Biden, meanwhile, accused former President Donald Trump of blocking rail safety regulations, including an Obama-era proposal that would have required advanced brakes on trains carrying hazardous materials — though some of those regulations did not would apply to the Norfolk Southern train that derailed, according to a Washington Post report.
The Norfolk Southern train was carrying toxic materials, including vinyl chloride, when it derailed in the East Palestine city on Feb. 3, sparking outrage from residents and congressional leaders of both parties over the release of toxic chemicals into the air and groundwater. A preliminary report by the National Transportation Safety Board found that the Norfolk Southern train crew had been alerted to an overheated wheel bearing before an alarm was sounded to slow the train. According to the report, the train was traveling slightly below the 50mph speed limit at the time of the derailment and had three crew members on board, including a trainee. On Tuesday, the railroad announced plans to implement a new six-point safety plan based on the report’s findings. That plan includes steps to increase railroad inspections, install hot wheel bearing detectors and speed up its inspection program.
Earlier this week, a South Norfolk piper was killed when a dump truck collided with the front of a train at a Cleveland steel plant, prompting a federal investigation. It was the third incident involving a Norfolk Southern train in just over a month, following another derailment last week in Springfield, Ohio, northeast of Dayton, in which 20 cars fell off the tracks, although the derailment caused no injuries. there were no toxic materials on board.
Ohio train derailment: Crew alerted to overheated wheel bearing and activated emergency brake, officials say (Forbes)
Norfolk Southern Announces New Safety Plan to Prevent Future Train Derailments (Forbes)
South Norfolk conductor killed in third Ohio incident this year—Weeks after massive chemical spill (Forbes)
White House demands GOP, ex-Trump officials apologize to East Palestine over toxic rail spill (Forbes)