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Norfolk Southern CEO to face Senate questioning following derailment

Train Derailment Ohio Congress
Posted at 7:21 AM, Mar 09, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-09 07:21:54-05

Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw will be among those questioned by a Senate panel Thursday as a bipartisan group of senators pitch rail safety legislation.

The questioning comes over a month following a train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, that prompted the town near the Pennsylvania border to evacuate as toxic chemicals were released in hopes of preventing an explosion. The result was a plume of smoke traveling miles into the sky, prompting environmental concerns.

The U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works will also welcome testimony from 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.

The hearing comes days after Norfolk Southern released a six-point safety plan in response to the derailment. The plan was based on the National Transportation Safety Board's initial findings,Norfolk Southern said. The company also had to respond to a derailment on Saturday in Springfield, Ohio, which temporarily prompted a “shelter-in-place” order for nearby residents.

"Reading the NTSB report makes it clear that meaningful safety improvements require a comprehensive industry effort that brings together railcar and tank car manufacturers, railcar owners and lessors, and the railroad companies," said Shaw. "We are eager to help drive that effort, and we are not waiting to take action."

Meanwhile, lawmakers are drafting their own proposals that would bolster safety requirements.

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.

An interim report by the NTSB 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.