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Bipartisan Group Proposes New Rail Legislation To Prevent Another East Palestine

Six senators from across the aisle will propose legislation today to avoid another train derailment following the Feb. 3 East Palestine, Ohio, disaster, according to The Associated Press.

The Railway Safety Act of 2023 will put forth safety restrictions and financial penalties in response to the Ohio train derailment that released hazardous chemicals into the air and water, according to the AP. The bill, introduced by Ohio senators Republican Sen. J.D. Vance and Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown, will subject trains that carry such materials to new regulations.

“Through this legislation, Congress has a real opportunity to ensure that what happened in East Palestine will never happen again,” Vance said in a statement, per the AP.

Almost 2,000 East Palestine residents had to evacuate following the Norfolk Southern train derailment so that a controlled burn could be carried out, which released hazardous chemicals throughout the area.

Rail carriers would have to develop emergency response plans and would be required to notify each state’s emergency response officials before trains carrying hazardous materials pass through, the AP reported. The bill will also enforce a two-person minimum rail crew to address the job shortage the rail industry has been facing.

“We owe every American the peace of mind that their community is protected from a catastrophe of this kind,” Vance said in a statement, per the AP.

The U.S. Department of Transportation will also be subject to revisions, and will have to reconsider the size and weight of trains, as well as preventing delays that cause rail blockages, according to the AP. Trains have amounted to 2 miles, as the industry attempts to avoid using more crews and trains, which railroad unions say is problematic.

The legislation will also require hazardous material training for first responders close to long-haul railroads, according to the AP. Enhanced wheel bearing maintenance will be required to detect overheating, which was the issue in the Ohio derailment.

The Federal Railroad Administration would have to update and enhance the frequency of which trains carrying hazardous materials are routinely checked, the AP reported.

Other sponsors include Democratic Pennsylvania Sens. Bob Casey and John Fetterman, as well as Republican Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Josh Hawley of Missouri, according to the AP.

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