Ohio derailment: Senate wants to investigate railroad safety

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Ohio derailment: Senate wants to investigate railroad safety

The White House defends its handling of a chemical train derailment.

Eleven of the 20 wagons containing chemicals derailed.

In the wake of a chemical train derailment in Ohio, Senate Commerce Committee Chair Maria Cantwell said late Friday night that she has opened an investigation on practices in the rail transport of hazardous materials.

The derailment of the train, operated by Norfolk Southern, forced the evacuation of thousands of residents of the area, as emergency crews had to extract the chemicals from the tanks to burn them.

In a letter to executives of Norfolk Southern and six other railroads – including Canadian National and Canadian Pacific – Ms. Cantwell noted that the train had 20 cars containing vinyl chloride, butyl acrylate and isobutene, and 11 of them derailed.

“All railroads need to re-examine their practices in transportation of hazardous substances to protect their employees, the environment and American families.

—Maria Cantwell, Chair of the Senate Commerce Committee

The incident caused no casualties, but residents of the small village in East Palestine and surrounding areas are still worried about the risks to their health. The companies to which the senator sent her letter did not immediately comment on the file.

Senate Commerce Committee Chair Maria Cantwell. (File photo)

The Railroad Association of America has stressed that it believes the National Transportation Safety Board needs to complete its own investigation before making any changes to the safety rules in place.

Senator Cantwell noted in her letter that over the past five years, major railroads have cut staff by a third, closed facilities where railcars are inspected, and allowed ever longer trains and heavier to ride. The Association has not provided a comment on Ms. Cantwell's statements.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg on Thursday stressed the need to improve safety train, as there are approximately 1,000 train derailments each year in the United States.

Ditto for the governor of Ohio, Mike DeWine, who challenged Congress on this subject. He deplored the fact that states have very little power to request information on the type of dangerous substances that cross their territory.

The elected official hopes that a presidential commission to or hearings will be announced to get to the bottom of this so that such a tragedy does not happen again.

The Biden administration was on the defensive Friday about its response to the derailment which occurred on February 3. The White House has pledged to send additional resources.

We have made a concerted effort among several federal agencies to support the people of East Palestine, White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre explained during a briefing.

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“The federal government is committed to ensuring that this community receives all the help it needs. We will be in the field as long as it takes. »

— Karine Jean-Pierre, White House Spokesperson

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced on Friday that they will send medical and toxicology teams to conduct further testing. Federal Rail Transportation Administration Chief Amit Bose will be on site next week.

Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw said in a letter that his company established a $1 million relief fund, in addition to distributing the equivalent of $1.7 million in direct assistance to some 1,100 families and businesses affected by the incident.

Mike DeWine said the column of polluting smoke moving along the Ohio River – a source of drinking water for five million people – had dissipated on Friday. Samples taken by the state would show that municipal water supply systems were spared contaminants, he said.

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