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Senate to question Norfolk Southern CEO on East Palestine derailment

The hearing comes as senators introduce legislation that would strengthen regulations on the rail industry and stiffen punishments.
Posted at 9:44 AM, Mar 02, 2023

A Senate committee will question Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw and others on the derailment following last month’s derailment of a Norfolk Southern train in East Palestine, Ohio. 

The U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works will hold the hearing March 9.  

The committee will also question three of the region’s senators: Ohio Sens. Sherrod Brown and JD Vance, and Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey. Shaw will appear alongside EPA regional administration Debra Shore, Ohio EPA director Anne Vogel, Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission executive director Richard Harrison and Beaver County Department of Emergency Services director of hazardous materials response Eric Brewer. 

On Wednesday, Brown and Vance were among a group of senators who introduced rail safety legislation intended to prevent future derailments. 

One of the proposals in the legislation would require rail carriers to provide advance notification and information to state emergency response officials about what they are transporting, the senators said. It would also require trains carrying hazardous materials to be scanned by hotbox detectors every 10 miles. It would also mandate wayside detectors. 

SEE MORE: East Palestine residents are scared to death

An interim report by National Transportation Safety Board indicated that a hotbox detector found the train’s bearing temperature was 253 degrees above the ambient temperature. Anything above 200 degrees is considered critical. 

“It shouldn’t take a massive railroad disaster for elected officials to put partisanship aside and work together for the people we serve – not corporations like Norfolk Southern,” said Brown. “Rail lobbyists have fought for years to protect their profits at the expense of communities like East Palestine and Steubenville and Sandusky. These commonsense bipartisan safety measures will finally hold big railroad companies accountable.”

Another aspect of the bill would increase the amount the U.S. Department of Transportation can fine companies for safety violations. 

“Through this legislation, Congress has a real opportunity to ensure that what happened in East Palestine will never happen again. We owe every American the peace of mind that their community is protected from a catastrophe of this kind,” said Vance.