Facebook Twitter

Senators question safety measures at Norfolk Southern during Senate hearing

Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw apologized for the train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, and committed to working with residents to provide aid

SHARE Senators question safety measures at Norfolk Southern during Senate hearing
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., asks questions during a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing in Washington.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., asks questions during a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing to examine protecting public health and the environment in the wake of the Norfolk Southern train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, Thursday, March 9, 2023, in Washington.

Kevin Wolf, Associated Press

A Senate Committee hearing with Norfolk Southern allowed Republican and Democratic lawmakers to ask questions and receive answers from the train company responsible for a train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, on Feb. 3.

The train had multiple cars carrying hazardous materials, and officials slowly released and burned the toxic chemicals into the air to prevent an explosion.

Residents of East Palestine were evacuated during the release and burn, but after they returned, several complained of headaches, nausea, rashes and other symptoms that weren’t present before the crash.

Here are some of the main takeaways from the Senate committee hearing looking into the environmental risks from the crash and looked for ways to prevent it in the future.

Norfolk Southern issues an apology during Senate hearing

CEO Alan Shaw started his testimony issuing an apology to those harmed by the accident. He also promised Norfolk Southern would help the town recover financially, CNN reported.

“I am determined to make this right. Norfolk Southern will clean the site safely, thoroughly and with urgency. You have my personal commitment. Norfolk Southern will get the job done and help East Palestine thrive,” Shaw said, per CNN.

Sen. J.D. Vance questions Norfolk Southern on following regulations

Sen. J.D. Vance, R-Ohio, and Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, have cosponsored a bipartisan bill, The Railway Safety Act of 2023, to “give the federal government rather than railroads oversight over the heat sensors on railroad tracks,” according to The Hill.

“You cannot claim special government privileges and then resist basic public safety,” Vance said, referring to stipends the railway industry received from the government, per The Hill.

Shaw declined endorsing the regulation.

Sen. Sanders asks if Norfolk Southern will provide sick leave

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., called into question labor practices within the industry, asking if Shaw would commit to providing sick leave for employees. Sanders asked for a yes or no answer, and Shaw said, “I am committed to speaking to our employees about quality of life issues that are important to them,” per NPR.

EPA leader promises to step in to make East Palestine safe, if necessary

Regional administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency promised to step in to ensure East Palestine air and water quality is safe and committed to continuing to test the area.

“If the company fails to complete any of the E.P.A.-ordered actions, the agency will immediately step in, conduct the necessary work and force Norfolk Southern to pay triple the cost,” Shore said.

Sen. Brown questions Norfolk Southern safety requirements

Brown questioned whether the railway company prioritized profits over safety.

“If Norfolk Southern had paid a little more attention to safety and a little less attention to profits, had cared a little more about the Ohioans along its tracks and a little less about its executives and shareholders, these accidents would not have been as bad for maybe not happened at all,” Brown said, per The Hill.

Norfolk Southern is one of America’s biggest rail companies

According to The Wall Street Journal, “Norfolk Southern is one of the country’s largest railroad companies, transporting freight from coiled steel to corn syrup across nearly 20,000 miles of rail across the eastern U.S. Ohio has some of the operator’s busiest tracks.”

The company has committed to donating more than $20 million to families impacted by the crash. Shaw also created a $445,000 college scholarship fund to go to local students from East Palestine from his own private funds, per the WSJ.