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Congress now considering federal laws after Norfolk Southern crash

As Congress considers new federal rules, more than a dozen states, including Ohio, are trying to set their own tougher standards.
Congress now considering federal laws after Norfolk Southern crash
Posted at 9:04 PM, Aug 03, 2023
and last updated 2023-08-03 21:05:51-04

The CEO of Norfolk Southern, Alan Shaw, has faced Congress multiple times since the derailment in East Palestine six months ago. Each time, he is peppered with questions about his company's safety record. Lawmakers demanded Norfolk Southern change its compensation strategy, which paid out millions of dollars in cash to executives for taking cost-cutting actions, like making trains longer and critics argue — less safe.

That revelation came in an exclusive series of Scripps News Investigative Reports. Under pressure, Norfolk Southern caved, telling Scripps News executive compensation will now be based, in part, on safety-related metrics. Congress is now considering the Railway Safety Act. It would require: two-person crews on trains, set new mandates on train length, increase penalties for violating safety standards, funds new hazmat training for first responders and requires new trackside detectors to quickly identify failures on rail cars.

SEE MORE: Cost of Norfolk Southern train derailment doubles to $803 million

The NTSB's preliminary investigation found the most likely cause of the East Palestine derailment was an overheated bearing on a rail car. The complete NTSB report is expected no earlier than next year.

Norfolk Southern accuses the owner of the rail car of improper maintenance. But the company, GATX, is pushing back, saying, in part: "we will vigorously defend the company against baseless claims made by Norfolk Southern."

As Congress considers those new federal rules, more than a dozen states, including Ohio, are trying to set their own tougher standards. 

But the battle may end up in court. The railroad industry insists federal law trumps states' abilities to set their own rules. 


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