Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw was among those who testified before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works as it investigates last month’s train derailment and chemical release in East Palestine, Ohio. Along with the rail company chief, the other officials appearing on the panel were Debra Shore, a regional director for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; Anne Vogel, director of the Ohio EPA; Richard Harrison, executive director and chief engineer for the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission; and Eric Brewer, the director and chief of hazardous materials response for Beaver County Pennsylvania Department of Emergency Services.
Norfolk Southern came under scrutiny after one of its trains derailed minutes from the Ohio-Pennsylvania border on the evening of Feb. 3, with the governors of both states issuing a joint evacuation order for a roughly 1-mile radius, since 11 of the cars contained hazardous materials. On Feb. 6, Norfolk Southern burned off five tankers full of vinyl chloride in what it said was an effort to avoid a catastrophic explosion, but it resulted in images of a giant toxic smoke plume that quickly circulated on social media. Two days later, residents were urged to return home, despite a lingering smell in the air and reports of symptoms such as dizziness, headaches and rashes.
Before Shaw and the environmental officials testified, Sens. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, J.D. Vance, R-Ohio, and Bob Casey, D-Pa., also appeared before their Senate peers. Last week, Brown and Vance introduced legislation that would improve railroad safety in the wake of the derailment, a bill that is co-sponsored by Casey.
Our live coverage has concluded but you can see the highlights of the hearing below.