Second Norfolk Southern train derailment in Ohio shines congressional spotlight on rail industry

A second train derailment in Ohio Saturday has lawmakers calling for additional freight safety rules at a time when the industry is already on the defensive following last month’s disastrous toxic chemical derailment.

“I am very concerned about the power of the railroads to beat back safety regulations,” Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said on ABC’s “This Week”.

Saturday’s derailment involved about 20 cars of a cargo train owned by Norfolk Southern, the same company that saw another one of its trains derail in East Palestine on Feb. 3.

The February derailment spewed hazardous material, resulting in a toxic chemical leak in the town. There’s no evidence Saturday’s latest derailment leaked any hazardous materials.

“Luckily it seems we may have missed a bullet in this one,” said Rep. Mike Turner, R-Ohio, who called the derailment “outrageous” on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”.

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After the toxic derailment in East Palestine, some bipartisan consensus emerged on Capitol Hill with lawmakers demanding changes to rail safety regulations. On Wednesday, Brown teamed up with fellow Ohio Republican Senator J.D. Vance and a group of other senators to introduce a bill aimed at establishing additional safety rules.

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Titled the Railway Safety Act of 2023, the bill would raise fines for safety violations, increase safety inspections, and requirer companies to disclose to states when trains with hazardous materials will pass through their borders.

The bill, which could pass the Democratic-controlled Senate in the coming weeks, has murkier prospects in the Republican-controlled House.

Related:White House blames Trump administration and Republicans over East Palestine, Ohio spill.

“It shouldn’t take a rail disaster to get us working together like that,” said Brown, who noted that the bill has “good” chances in the Senate, but declined to say whether he thinks the House will take up the bill.

“I make no predictions in the House,” continued Brown. “Keep in mind who has the influence in the House of Representatives. The big railroads have weakened safety rules or resisted safety rules for years.”.

Related:Pete Buttigieg has become the GOP’s favorite lightning rod for controversy. Why him?

Asked by NBC’s Chuck Todd whether the rail industry requires new regulations, Turner responded: “Absolutely.”.

“The fact that we’re having derailment after derailment, shows really the lack of investment, the disinvestment in our infrastructure, and that needs to change.” Turner said.

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