A bipartisan group of senators will introduce legislation on Wednesday aimed at preventing rail disasters following the devastating derailment in eastern Palestine last month.
He Rail Safety Act 2023 it would create more stringent safety requirements for trains carrying hazardous materials and increase the frequency of railcar inspections. It would also require trained two-person crews to work aboard each train carrying hazardous materials and impose higher fines for rail carriers’ wrongdoing.
The February 3 derailment of a Norfolk Southern train carrying vinyl chloride caused a spill of toxic chemicals. Both Republican and Democratic lawmakers have called on Biden administration officials to prioritize addressing the crisis, while some Democrats have criticized Donald Trump for undoing rail safety rules during his term as president. Michael Regan, the administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency, has visited the derailment site multiple times as nearby residents suffer ecological damage.
«It shouldn’t take a massive rail disaster for elected officials to put partisanship aside and work together for the people we serve, not corporations like Norfolk Southern,» Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said in a statement. .
The bill will be introduced by Brown and his Republican counterpart, Sen. JD Vance, who represent the state where the Norfolk Southern derailment occurred. Sens. Bob Casey, D-Pa., John Fetterman, D-Pa., Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Josh Hawley, R-Mo., are also sponsoring the legislation. The toxic plume caused by the derailment has also affected neighboring Pennsylvania.
«Through this legislation, Congress has a real opportunity to ensure that what happened in eastern Palestine never happens again,» Vance said in a statement. “We owe all Americans the peace of mind that their community is protected from such a catastrophe. .”
Congressional committees have competed to hold hearings and take action after the derailment. On Tuesday, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works asked Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw to participate in an upcoming hearing. Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., and Chris Deluzio, D.-Pa., introduced legislation in the House on Tuesday to tighten regulations on trains carrying hazardous materials.