Ohio train derailment: Fetterman, Hawley and Vance among senators proposing new regulations

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

A bipartisan group of Senators are proposing a series of new regulations in response to the train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio.

Ohio’s Democratic senior Senator Sherrod Brown and newly-minted Republican Senator JD Vance joined Pennsylvania’s Democratic Senators John Fetterman and Bob Casey as well Republican Senators Josh Hawley of Missouri and Marco Rubio to introduce the Railway Safety Act of 2023.

“Action to prevent future disasters is critical, but we must never lose sight of the needs of the Ohioans living in East Palestine and surrounding communities,” Mr Vance said in a statement. “One day, the TV cameras will leave, and the news cycle will move on, but the needs of those Ohioans will remain. I will never stop fighting to deliver the support they need.”

The legislation comes after a train from Norfolk Southern that carried hazardous material derailed in East Palestine, which is right on the border of Ohio and Pennsylvania.

“For far too long, the rail industry, and the government agencies that regulate it, have prioritized their bottom line over safety and resiliency. This comprehensive bill would help prevent future catastrophic derailments,” Mr Rubio said in a statement.

The legislation would put in place safety measures for trains carrying hazardous materials like vinyl chloride, which the train in East Palestine carried when it derailed. Rail carriers would also need to provide advance information to state emergency officials about what they are transporting. The bill would also create requirements for blocked rail crossings and put in place new rules for size and weight.

“Rail lobbyists have fought for years to protect their profits at the expense of communities like East Palestine and Steubenville and Sandusky,” Mr Brown said in a statement. “These commonsense bipartisan safety measures will finally hold big railroad companies accountable, make our railroads and the towns along them safer, and prevent future tragedies, so no community has to suffer like East Palestine again.”

Rail cars on trains carrying hazadrous material would also be subject to increased inspections.

“The safety regulations governing our nation’s railroads must be updated to ensure that a disaster like this never happens again,” Mr Hawley said.

Republicans have criticised the Biden administration for not visiting East Palestine in favor of visiting Ukraine and former president Donald Trump accompanied Mr Vance to East Palestine. Meanwhile many Democrats have blamed the Trump administration for loosening the regulations on trains carrying hazardous materials.