Senator J.D. Vance sends letter demanding answers from Department of Transportation, Norfolk Southern
Republican Ohio Senator J.D. Vance and Republican Florida Senator Marco Rubio sent a letter to Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg demanding answers on the East Palestine train derailment.
Both Senators expressed concerns over the environmental issues and long term implications for the town and its residents following the release of vinyl chloride and other chemicals into the air and ground, as well as additional questions that are being raised regarding the U.S. Department of Transportation's regulatory oversight and Norfolk Southern Railway's business practices.
Senators Vance and Rubio sent a letter to DOT Secretary Pete Buttigieg questioning the Department's efforts to balance safety and hyper-efficiency.
The letter reads, in part:
"In particular, we request information from the U.S. Department of Transportation regarding its oversight of the United States' freight train system and, more generally, how it balances building a safe, resilient rail industry across our country in relation to building a hyper-efficient one with minimal direct human input."
"It is not unreasonable to ask whether a crew of two rail workers, plus one trainee, is able to effectively monitor 150 cars. While officials at the department's Federal Railroad Administration have said that data are inconclusive when it comes to the effects of PSR on rail safety, derailments have reportedly increased in recent years, as has the rate of total accidents or safety-related incidents per track mile. The trade-off for Class I rail companies, of course, has been reduced labor costs, having shed nearly one-third of their workforce."
In a separate letter sent to Chief Executive Officer of Norfolk Southern Alan Shaw, Senator J.D. Vance requested the company expand its existing financial reimbursement are to include all residents of East Palestine.
The letter reads in part:
"I ask that you expand the criteria for the reimbursement area to include all residents of East Palestine, not merely those within the one-mile area of the evacuation perimeter. They are all affected. They should be reimbursed. I would strongly assert, however, that these checks should not and do not release the railroad from any liability it has incurred as a result of this disaster."