JD Vance urges colleagues to confront Norfolk Southern CEO on railway bill point, internal Senate memo shows

EXCLUSIVE: Sen. JD Vance, R-Ohio, is urging GOP colleagues on the Senate Commerce Committee to press Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw on whether he supports a key part of the Railway Safety Act, after one of his freight company’s trains carrying toxic gas derailed in East Palestine, Ohio last month.  Vance sent an internal memo to fellow Republican Senate offices ahead of Wednesday’s hearing on the incident that outlines proposed lines of questioning, which also highlight how his bipartisan legislation would strengthen regulatory standards in the name of avoiding such accidents. In particular, the conservative freshman senator suggested that lawmakers ask Shaw about an aspect of the bill that deals with penalties, according to a copy of the document obtained by Fox News Digital. “It’s a long road ahead for the people of East Palestine. They are being exposed, on a daily basis, to toxins. Their ecosystem has been permanently contaminated. My only question would be, is 1 percent of annual operating income ($48 million for Norfolk Southern in 2022) too much to ask when a railroad company poisons an entire community?” the memo stated. SEE IT: EAST PALESTINE RESIDENT POSTS PHOTOS OF RESIDUE ON WALLS, SAYS HOUSE ‘REEKS’ OF CHEMICAL SMELLS Under current rules, the maximum fine for safety violations is roughly $225,000, according to Vance’s document. Vance’s bill would raise the penalty to 1% of a railroad’s annual operating income.  He introduced the Railway Safety Act alongside Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, roughly a month after the toxic train derailment upended life for their constituents living in East Palestine. While local and state officials have said that the air and water quality are safe, Ohioans and residents in nearby parts of Pennsylvania have reported a number of symptoms – including nausea and dizziness – in the accident’s wake. Wednesday’s hearing is a chance to test how much support the legislation has on both sides of the aisle. A competing bill was introduced in the House by Reps. Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, and Emilia Strong Sykes, R-Ohio. Another aspect of the bill that Vance is urging senators to address at the hearing is aimed at expanding the designation for high-hazard flammable trains to include flammable gas, which currently appears to be excluded from the law outlining the safety standard. EAST PALESTINE TRAIN DERAILMENT SITE WORKERS ARE GETTING SICK, UNION SAYS “Similar concerns exist for trains carrying large amounts of flammable gases, which, when burned, can turn into dangerous toxic chemicals or present explosion risk, which is what happened in the East Palestine derailment,” Vance’s memo stated. “This section currently applies to shippers and railroads for trains, although it is likely to change to exclude shippers from the regulation because they do not supervise railcars after they leave their facilities. However, applying the broad parameters of HHFT trains to trains carrying large amounts of flammable gas is a sensible policy.” The 2019 safety legislation, called the FAST Act, requires railroads carrying a certain class of toxic materials of a specific length to have emergency protocols in place and be able to alert relevant authorities upon request. Vance pointed out in his memo that under the current rules, the Norfolk Southern train did not rise to the standard required to trigger the FAST Act’s safety provisions. JD VANCE CHALLENGES BIDEN’S EPA ADMIN TO DRINK POTENTIALLY CONTAMINATED OHIO WATER IF HE CLAIMS IT’S SAFE “In the East Palestine derailment, 17 of the tank cars were loaded with combustible liquids, flammable liquids, or flammable gas, including vinyl chloride, and three contained residue only. A high-hazard flammable train designation is triggered at 1 million gallons of class three material. It is reasonable to suggest that a similar designation be devised to apply to a train carrying 1.5 million pounds of flammable gas and other chemicals,” the senator wrote. He called on colleagues to take these concerns to another hearing witness, National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Chair Jennifer Homendy. “Why shouldn’t state and local first responders be notified that trains carrying hazardous materials—sometimes miles long—are being transported through their jurisdiction?” one of Vance’s questioned asked. His memo also suggested, “Does the NTSB believe that a single tank car of hazardous material derailing and exploding presents a serious danger to humans and loss of life?” While Wednesday will be his first time publicly confronting the Norfolk Southern CEO and other safety officials on the incident on Capitol Hill, he previously testified to the damage caused by the derailment in his state earlier this month as a witness before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
Go to Source

Scroll to Top