The US Senate Commerce Committee on Wednesday will vote on sweeping bipartisan rail safety legislation prompted by the Norfolk Southern-operated train derailment on February 3 in Ohio.
Committee Chair Maria Cantwell, a Democrat, said the legislation would mandate the use of technology to identify equipment failures, prevent cursory rail inspections, and ensure that trains carrying Explosive materials such as trains in Ohio follow stricter safety regulations.
“No one should lose sleep at night worrying that railroads are cutting corners on safety and putting their communities at risk for disasters like the one in East Palestine,” Cantwell said. in a statement.
The railroad safety law was introduced in March by Ohio’s US senators, Democrat Sherrod Brown and Republican JD Vance, and the safety measure to be considered Wednesday includes key provisions from that bill. Vance on Monday said the latest version of the legislation won the support of Republican former President Donald Trump and Republican Senators Mike Braun, Roger Marshall and Mitt Romney.
The Cantwell-Vance-Brown Railway Safety Act to be considered Wednesday builds on legislation proposed in March, Cantwell said. It would also increase the maximum civil penalty from $100,000 to $10 million for rail safety violations and require two crew members to operate a train to prevent a situation where only one employee is present on the train in an emergency.
The Association of American Railroads said that “the negotiations on the Rail Safety Act have made progress, but challenging provisions remain that need to be addressed.”
The US Department of Justice sued Norfolk Southern Corp on March 31 seeking to ensure the railroad pays the full cost of the cleanup and any lasting effects of the derailment in East Palestine, Ohio.
The Norfolk train derailment of 38 cars, including 11 carrying hazardous materials, caused cars carrying toxic vinyl chloride and other hazardous chemicals to spill and catch fire.
Norfolk last month took a $387 million first-quarter charge for derailments, mostly related to environmental costs. No one was killed or injured following the incident but since the derailment, some of East Palestine’s 4,700 residents have reported ailments such as rashes and difficulty breathing.
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