U.S. urges rail trade, Congress to spice up security measures after poisonous derailment

U.S. urges rail trade, Congress to spice up security measures after poisonous derailment

U.S. urges rail trade, Congress to spice up security measures after poisonous derailment

By David Shepardson

(Reuters) – U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg on Tuesday urged main railroads and Congress to take vital steps to spice up practice security and mentioned he would pursue new rules with out motion by lawmakers after a poisonous derailment in Ohio.

“This represents an essential second to redouble our efforts to make this far much less more likely to occur once more,” Buttigieg instructed reporters forward of the announcement, calling on Congress to “untie our palms in order that we will do extra.”

The Biden administration has confronted sharp criticism from many Republicans for its response to the Feb. 3 derailment in East Palestine, Ohio of a Norfolk Southern operated practice loaded with poisonous chemical substances.

The accident brought on a hearth and despatched a cloud of smoke over the city, forcing hundreds of residents to evacuate whereas railroad crews drained and burned off chemical substances.

No fatalities or accidents have been reported, however residents have demanded solutions about potential well being dangers. The Biden administration mentioned on Friday it was stepping up its efforts as two congressional committees examine.

Buttigieg instructed reporters he needs main rail firms to undertake safer tank automobiles by 2025, relatively than 2029 as required underneath a legislation handed in 2015.

He additionally referred to as on them be a part of a whistleblower safety program, increase hazardous cargo notifications to state emergency response groups and supply paid sick depart saying “a wholesome and well-supported workforce is a safer workforce.”

Buttigieg mentioned he deliberate to pursue new rules to spice up rail security “to the extent doable” underneath present legislation and would provoke extra targeted inspection applications.

He wrote to Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw on Sunday highlighting prior aggressive trade lobbying to weaken efforts to impose new security necessities.

Norfolk Southern mentioned it had established an preliminary $1 million group help fund and distributed $3.4 million in direct monetary help to greater than 2,200 households to cowl evacuation prices. “We’re going to do the proper issues to assist East Palestine get better and thrive once more,” Shaw mentioned.

Individually, Environmental Safety Company Administrator Michael Regan will go to East Palestine for the second time in lower than per week on Tuesday and can announce extra well being and security measures. Buttigieg mentioned “when the time is true” he additionally plans to go to East Palestine.

Buttigieg needs Congress to make it simpler to impose new practice security rules and improve U.S. Division of Transportation (USDOT) fines for violating security rules from the present most $225,455 at the very least ten-fold.

“For a multi-billion rail firm posting earnings within the billions ever yr, that’s simply not sufficient to have an enough deterrent impact,” he mentioned.

The Nationwide Transportation Security Board is investigating the derailment and USDOT mentioned it might use the probe outcomes “to carry Norfolk Southern accountable, whereas pushing for rail security initiatives within the extra quick future.”

The rail trade says 99.9% of all hazmat shipments attain their vacation spot with out incident and hazmat accident charge has declined by 55% since 2012.

Some rail security necessities had been withdrawn underneath President Donald Trump. Some Republican critics of the East Palestine response who beforehand opposed rail rules have now expressed openness to new guidelines.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Enhancing by Jamie Freed)

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