Another Norfolk Southern Train Derailed as Its CEO Testified Before the Senate

One other Norfolk Southern freight prepare derailment was reported on Thursday as CEO Alan Shaw testified earlier than the Senate Surroundings and Public Well being Committee analyzing the sooner derailment of a prepare carrying hazardous chemical compounds that brought about an environmental catastrophe in East Palestine, Ohio.

Shaw apologized a number of instances to the residents of East Palestine however averted making agency commitments to paying for long-term damages and well being prices, as an alternative repeatedly asserting that Norfolk Southern is dedicated to “doing what’s proper.” Pressed by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), Shaw additionally stopped in need of committing to offering at the very least seven paid sick days per yr to all of its employees, a significant sticking level in contentious negotiations with craft unions that almost led to a nationwide rail strike final yr.

“I share your give attention to our workers. I’ll decide to proceed to debate with them vital high quality of life points with our craft workers,” Shaw stated as Sanders peppered him with questions.

“With all due respect, you sound like a politician right here, Mr. Shaw,” Sanders replied. “It’s not a deal. Paid sick days just isn’t a radical idea within the yr 2023. I’m not listening to you make that dedication to all your employees. Clearly, we’d like that dedication for everybody in America.”

In the course of the listening to, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island) relayed information reviews {that a} Norfolk Southern prepare had derailed and crashed in Alabama. It was the third derailment of a Norfolk Southern prepare because the derailment in East Palestine on February 3 that resulted in a large chemical hearth and a managed burn that left hundreds of residents anxious about poisonous contamination. Just like the second Norfolk Southern derailment in Ohio on Saturday, the derailed vehicles in Alabama luckily weren’t carrying hazardous supplies.

“Chances are you’ll want to check out that,” Whitehouse instructed Shaw.

Past the numerous communities bisected by railroads and trains each day, the general public is simply starting to find out about how usually freight trains fall off the tracks or collide with autos. A CSX prepare additionally derailed this week after apparently hitting a rockslide in West Virginia, which sent burning cars tumbling right into a river.

Citing a listing of five recent “significant incidents” involving Norfolk Southern trains, together with collisions that killed or injured employees, the Nationwide Transportation Security Board introduced a particular investigation into the corporate’s “group and security tradition” on Tuesday. That checklist features a deadly collision in Cleveland this week that left a prepare conductor lifeless however doesn’t embrace the newest derailment in Alabama.

Labor advocates say all the railroad system wants an overhaul in favor of the individuals who work and keep the tracks. A bipartisan group of senators lately launched the Railway Security Act of 2023 to bolster security requirements and fines for carriers that break the principles, particularly for prepare vehicles carrying hazardous supplies. Unions are backing the invoice whereas pushing for enhancements corresponding to guaranteeing all railroad employees paid sick and time to relaxation, however the business and a few Republicans are skeptical of latest regulation.

Sen. J.D. Vance, a populist Republican who launched the invoice with Democrat Sen. Sherrod Brown, each of Ohio, stated the prepare business obtained a federal “bailout” when Congress and President Joe Biden stepped in to dam a nationwide rail strike in December. The rail business and its lobbyists take pleasure in particular privileges from the federal government, Vance stated, after which flip round and resist security regulation. He urged his fellow Republicans to cease resisting the laws.

“Are we for giant enterprise and massive authorities or are we with the individuals of East Palestine?” Vance stated.

Shaw stated Norfolk Southern helps sure provisions within the invoice, however these provisions primarily cowl points the corporate is already tackling as a part of a six-point security plan the corporate launched amid nationwide media consideration within the wake of the East Palestine catastrophe. Ted Greener, a spokesperson for the lobbying group Affiliation of American Railroads (AAR), stated the business “just isn’t ready for laws or rules.”

“The business lately introduced amongst different issues the addition of roughly 1,000 sizzling bearing detectors and tightening the spacing between them, which is one problem particularly recognized within the Vance-Brown laws,” Greener stated in an electronic mail.

Nevertheless, AAR continues to oppose the laws’s requirement that at the very least two crew members be onboard a freight prepare for lengthy rides, a proposal emphatically backed by unions and likewise into consideration inside the Biden administration. Actually, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) lately urged lawmakers to strengthen the laws so the business is unable to use loopholes to take care of their “Precision Railroad Scheduling” system, which is usually blamed for an exhausted workforce.

“You may run a freight prepare by the loopholes,” BLET Nationwide President Eddie Corridor stated in a latest assertion.

Whitehouse and others on the Senate committee identified that rail provider firms corresponding to Norfolk Southern, CSX and Union Pacific spend tens of hundreds of thousands of {dollars} every year on lobbying, usually in opposition to rules. Norfolk Southern spent as much as $4 billion on inventory buybacks final yr, a part of a $10 billion program geared toward elevating share value, and Shaw confirmed that the corporate made at the very least $3 billion in profits in 2022.

Lawmakers accused the business of considerably decreasing its workforce over the previous decade and earnings soared.

“Norfolk’s earnings went up and up and up, and look what occurred,” Brown stated.

Shaw claimed the corporate spent over $1 billion on security enhancements final yr, when the corporate had a greater security file. Shaw additionally stated the $21 million his firm has invested in aid for residents of East Palestine and surrounding communities is “only a down fee,” however he averted committing to compensating individuals for well being care and for the lack of dwelling values over the long run.

Shaw, who turned CEO of Norfolk Southern in Might 2022, instructed the committee that the corporate is “charting a brand new course” below his management and placing long-term investments in security over short-term earnings. Lawmakers, and particularly Democrats, remained unconvinced that the corporate would stay as much as its guarantees and work with regulators and lawmakers on harder security requirements. Sanders vowed to proceed pursuing paid go away laws for railroad employees.

“You’re not having an excellent month,” Sen. Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts) stated to Shaw through the listening to. “It looks as if each week there’s one other accident that Norfolk Southern is part of on this nation, so that you may suppose you’re placing in sufficient, however the details are saying the precise reverse with what is occurring.”

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