Six U.S. Senators introduced legislation Wednesday to improve safety on the nation’s railways following the devastating train derailment and “controlled” chemical burn in East Palestine, Ohio.
Sens. J.D. Vance (R-OH), Josh Hawley (R-MO), Marco Rubio (R-FL), John Fetterman (D-PA), Bob Casey (D-PA), and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) introduced the Railway Safety Act of 2023, which would achieve the following, according to Vance’s office:
- Enhance safety procedures for trains carrying hazardous materials by:
- Including new safety requirements and procedures for trains carrying hazardous materials like vinyl chloride
- Requiring rail carriers to provide advance notification and information to state emergency response officials about what they are transporting
- Creating new requirements to prevent blocked railroad crossings
- Mitigating derailment risk with rules for train size and weight
- Reduce the risk of wheel bearing failures by:
- Establishing requirements for wayside defect detectors
- Requiring trains carrying hazardous materials to be scanned by hotbox detectors every 10 miles
- Strengthening inspection requirements for rail cars of trains carrying hazardous materials
- Require well-trained, two-person crews aboard every train
- Force rail carriers to face heightened fines for wrongdoing by:
- Substantially increasing the maximum fines USDOT can issue for safety violations
- Support communities impacted by rail disasters by:
- Expanding HAZMAT training grants for local law enforcement and first responders through increased registration fees paid by Class I railroads
- Invest in future safety improvements by:
- Providing $22,000,000 to the Federal Railroad Administration for research and development grants regarding wayside defect detectors and other rail priorities
- Providing $5,000,000 to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration for expenses related to developing stronger tank car safety features
“Through this legislation, Congress has a real opportunity to ensure that what happened in East Palestine will never happen again,” said Vance. “We owe every American the peace of mind that their community is protected from a catastrophe of this kind.”
He added that while these measures aim to prevent another calamity, the well-being and needs of those in the East Palestine area should remain the top priority:
Action to prevent future disasters is critical, but we must never lose sight of the needs of the Ohioans living in East Palestine and surrounding communities. One day, the TV cameras will leave, and the news cycle will move on, but the needs of those Ohioans will remain. I will never stop fighting to deliver the support they need.
“What happened in East Palestine was a horrific tragedy,” Hawley said in a statement. “The safety regulations governing our nation’s railroads must be updated to ensure that a disaster like this never happens again.”
Fetterman checked himself into a hospital several weeks ago for “clinical depression,” and on Monday, his communications director, Joe Calvello, said the senator was still “working with the wonderful doctors.” Breitbart News has reached out to his office inquiring if he remains in the hospital and if he made the decision to cosponsor the bill from the hospital, but his office did not immediately respond.
Brown excused President Joe Biden’s absence from East Palestine in the wake of the tragedy, as Breitbart News reported on Tuesday. His comments came in response to a question during a press gaggle:
I don’t know if the President himself coming particularly matters, but I do know that his focus, I’ve talked to him. He called me from Warsaw to talk about what are we not doing that we need to do. I talked to his staff more than to him, but the staff or him twice three times a week, holding their feet to the fire and making sure they’re doing what they should be doing. So, whether he comes here or not is not, I don’t think, is a particularly big deal. Whether we are, his focus is on here and will continue to be.
However, East Palestine Mayor Trent R. Conaway feels differently than Sherrod. During an appearance on Fox News Channel’s Jesse Waters Tonight on February 20, Conway said Biden’s presence in Ukraine instead of East Palestine last week “was the biggest slap in the face.”
“That tells you right now he doesn’t care about us. So, he can send every agency he wants to, but I found that out this morning in one of the briefings that he was in…Ukraine, giving millions of dollars away to people over there, and not to us, and I’m furious,” he added.Alana Mastrangelo / Breitbart News
Sherrod did express comfort knowing that Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg had made a visit on February 3, though it came 20 days after the initial derailment and 17 days after the “controlled” burn of vinyl chloride. A day prior, former President Donald J. Trump went to the town with truckloads of water and bought food for everyone who was inside an East Palestine McDonald’s.Alana Mastrangelo / Breitbart News
“We’re going to take care of the fire department, we’re going to take care of the police department, plus the people that are in here. They’re going to get a nice, free meal,” Trump was heard telling the McDonald’s cashier.
Conaway was grateful for Trump’s presence.
“We as a community would like to thank President Trump for coming up here and shedding some light on the situation we are currently in,” he said.