Buttigieg urges U.S. railroads to boost safety, not oppose reforms

Buttigieg urges U.S. railroads to boost safety, not oppose reforms
Buttigieg urges U.S. railroads to boost safety, not oppose reforms

By David Shepardson

(Reuters) -U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg mentioned Sunday he would name on main railroads to enhance security after a Feb. 3 derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, of a practice operated by Norfolk Southern.

Buttigieg in a letter to Norfolk Southern Chief Government Alan Shaw mentioned he would additionally urge Congress to increase the cap on fines towards railroads for violating security laws “to guarantee their deterrent impact is commensurate with the financial proportions of immediately’s massive railroad corporations.”

Buttigieg mentioned he would quickly define particular security enhancements railroads ought to take instantly. He harshly criticized them for lobbying towards steps “meant to enhance rail security and to assist hold Individuals protected.”

“Main derailments previously have been adopted by requires reform – and by vigorous resistance by your trade to elevated security measures. This should change,” Buttigieg wrote.

Buttigieg has confronted harsh criticism from many Republicans in Congress for his response to the derailment of the practice loaded with poisonous chemical compounds that brought about a hearth and despatched a cloud of smoke over the city that pressured 1000’s of residents to evacuate whereas railroad crews drained and burned off chemical compounds.

No fatalities or accidents have been reported, however residents have been demanding solutions about potential well being dangers.

Norfolk Southern did not instantly reply to a request for remark Sunday, however Shaw mentioned final week the railroad had established an preliminary $1 million neighborhood help fund and distributed $1.7 million in direct monetary help to greater than 1,100 households and companies to cowl evacuation prices.

“We’ll not allow you to down,” he advised residents in a letter.

Buttigieg’s letter mentioned that in response to many derailments, two U.S. businesses had finalized guidelines on high-hazard flammable trains and Electronically Managed Pneumatic (ECP) braking.

“Fairly than help these efforts to enhance rail security, Norfolk Southern and different rail corporations spent tens of millions of {dollars} within the courts and lobbying members of Congress to oppose

common sense security laws, stopping some completely and decreasing the scope of others,” Buttigieg wrote.

“Consequently, Congress enacted language that undermined the power of USDOT to maintain the ECP brake necessities, and so they had been finally withdrawn underneath the Trump administration.”

Buttigieg mentioned he additionally deliberate to define “prioritized actions deliberate” by the U.S. Division of Transportation on rail security.

In response to the derailment, U.S. Senate Commerce Committee Chair Maria Cantwell Friday opened an inquiry into railroad hazardous supplies security practices.

The Senate Setting and Public Works Committee mentioned Friday it deliberate to maintain a listening to on the derailment.

In a letter to Shaw and CEOs of main railroad corporations, Cantwell mentioned “each railroad should reexamine its hazardous supplies security practices to higher defend its workers, the surroundings, and American households and reaffirm security as a high precedence.”

The businesses included Berkshire Hathaway’s Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF), Canadian Nationwide, Canadian Pacific, CSX, Kansas Metropolis Southern and Union Pacific.

A gaggle representing main railroads mentioned final week 99.9% of all hazmat shipments attain their vacation spot with out incident and the hazmat accident fee has declined by 55% since 2012.

(Reporting by David Shepardson in Franconia, New Hampshire; Enhancing by Lisa Shumaker and Richard Chang)

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