Ohio derailment: Buttigieg urges safety changes

Omaha, Nebraska –

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has said that domestic freight railroads will continue to operate as regulators attempt to tighten safety rules following a violent derailment in Ohio that forced an evacuation when toxic chemicals were released and burned. We hope to take immediate action to improve safety.

Buttigieg came two days after warning the Norfolk Southern Railroad, responsible for the derailment, to fulfill its promise to clean up chaos just outside East Palestine, Ohio, and help rebuild the town. The Department of Transportation said it would hold railroad companies accountable for safety violations that led to an accident near the Pennsylvania border on February 3.

“While ensuring the safety of those affected by this crash is our immediate priority, this is an important step to redouble our efforts to make future recurrences much less likely,” Buttigieg said. We must recognize that it is time.

Government data show derailment accidents have declined in recent years, but there were still 1,049 last year.

The Environmental Protection Agency Commissioner will return to the town of 4,700 with governors of Ohio and Pennsylvania on Tuesday to discuss efforts to decontaminate and keep people safe. Evaluate resident complaints. State and federal officials have reiterated that no dangerous levels of toxins were detected after testing air and water samples in the area, but some people are worried about returning to their homes due to the constant He complains of headaches and eye irritation.

Buttigieg said railroad and tank car owners will not wait to comply with the 2029 standard, which Congress finally approved after regulators proposed earlier deadlines, but rather by 2025. He said he should take action to accelerate plans to upgrade tankers that carry flammable liquids such as ethanol. He also said freight railroads should allow regulators to reach agreements to provide employees with paid sick leave to prevent fatigue and to report safety concerns without fear of reprisal. I said I should immediately agree to use the secret hotline I created.

He also wants railroads to stop asking for waivers from inspection requirements whenever they develop new technology to improve inspections.

The rail union has also expressed concern that rolling stock inspections may be rushed and preventative maintenance neglected after it said widespread job cuts in the industry in recent years had endangered railroads. Greg Regan, president of the AFL-CIO’s Coalition of Departments of Transportation and Trade, said Ohio’s derailment should encourage reform.

“I think there’s a moment for the industry as a whole to look in the mirror and decide what can be done,” Regan said. They’ve obviously fought regulation in the past, but I think they’ve run out of excuses here.”

Buttigieg said regulators are considering whether the Trump administration’s proposed rule could be reinstated, which would allow flammable liquids designated as “high-risk flammable trains.” It required upgraded electronically controlled brakes on certain trains filled with This rule was removed after it determined the costs were unjustifiable.

Buttigieg said he urged Congress to “loose our hands here” on the brake rule, and regulators said the expansion of trains covered by the “extremely dangerous” rule announced in 2015 said that it may consider At his worst, in 2013, the Canadian town of Lac, where his Megantic was devastated, killed 47 people. He also said Congress should increase the current cap on rail safety fines of US$225,455 by at least a factor of 10 to create a better deterrent to multi-billion dollar companies.

Buttigieg criticized the railroad for lobbying against the brake rule and challenging it in court. But David Clark, a railroad safety expert who previously headed the Center for Transportation Research at the University of Tennessee, warned that even if he opposed the proposed regulation, the industry would be skeptical if he had doubts about the benefits of the proposed regulation. should not be overly criticized.

“When you describe them in terms of safety, it looks like mom, God, and apple pie,” Clark said. “Anything related to safety is sacred.” It means we have to look at the benefits and costs of

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine was in disbelief when he learned that the derailed Norfolk Southern Railroad did not receive that designation. root for those chemicals.

“This is ridiculous,” said DeWine. “Congress needs to consider how this will be handled.”

Regulators and the American Railroad Association trade group say there are hundreds of pages of rules that railroads must follow when transporting dangerous chemicals. Any of the hundreds of other dangerous chemicals that railroads routinely carry.

It is not clear whether the “high risk” rule could have prevented this derailment. The Federal National Transportation Safety Board is in the early stages of an investigation, but officials at that agency said not long after a train crew member was warned of a possible mechanical problem that one of the vehicle’s axles was damaged. He said he believes it was caused by a malfunction. crash.

The Federal Railroad Administration also proposed requiring two crew members in most situations, which Buttigieg pointed to as one of the Biden administration’s main efforts to improve railroad safety over the past two years. Work to finalize the rules.

Eddie Hall, president of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, said he believes freight rail efforts to reduce crews to one represent a clear threat to safety.

“U.S. railroads are largely self-regulating and are now heading in the opposite direction rather than learning from their mistakes and improving oversight and safety,” Hall said. We welcome the efforts of the Ministry of Transport to improve

Norfolk Southern officials declined to respond directly to Mr Buttigieg on Monday. He promised to do everything in his power to “return East Palestine to its former state as soon as possible.”

As part of those efforts, the railroad said it had appointed one of its local employees, who live in the town, as a liaison between East Palestine and the Norfolk Southern. That person oversees her million-dollar budget to support the community, plus her million-dollar fund created by the railroad to help residents and her million-dollar fund already distributed to her family. Oversees payments of $3.4 million. The EPA says Norfolk Southern will pay for the removal costs, and with several lawsuits already filed against the railroad, these payments could be just the beginning.

Professor Christopher Barkan of the University of Illinois teaches a class on railroad safety and advises the industry on tanker car safety standards and environmental issues.

“Norfolk Southern responded quickly and I have no doubt that they will continue to do so until all environmental issues are resolved,” Barkan said. “Now I can see why people in that town are really worried. What happened to your town is horrible.”

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