Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw testifies before Senate panel


South Norfolk CEO Alan Shaw told a U.S. Senate panel Thursday that he planned to “improve” after one of the company’s trains derailed last month in East Palestine, Ohio.

Shaw appeared before the House Democrats at a hearing of the US Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. called “danger to the environment and public health” as a result of the derailment.

Shaw told the Senate panel that he “deeply regrets the impact this derailment has had on the people of eastern Palestine and the surrounding communities.”

He promised that the company had completely cleaned up the site and was moving forward. “We’ll be in the community as long as it takes,” he said, adding that “no strings attached” to the company’s help.

Shaw also highlighted Norfolk Southern’s commitment to providing more than $20 million in financial assistance in returns and investments to affected residents and first responders.

“Norfolk Southern is working around the clock to address the remaining issues and monitor public health and environmental impacts,” the CEO said in prepared remarks. “We will continue to listen to experts and cooperate with state, federal and local government agencies. We will participate in this monitoring as long as necessary.”

Shaw appears with Environmental Protection Agency Regional Administrator Debra Shore, Ohio EPA Director Ann Vogel, Ohio River Valley Water Treatment Commission Executive Director Richard Harrison and Beaver County Emergency Department Director Eric Brewer.

At the start of the hearing, committee chairman Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., said there was a mistake among first responders in thinking that only one vehicle would break down and catch fire instead of five, which he said distressed several first responders. . Sen. Shelly Moore Capito, a Republican from West Virginia, said a prominent committee member said the issue is about trust and accountability.

“If something like this happens again, God forbid, they too will respond quickly, sensibly, transparently and clearly to the federal government, and those responsible will be held accountable,” Capito said. .

The committee also included Ohio state senators, Democrat Sherrod Brown and Republican J. D. Vance and Sen. Bob Casey (D-Penna) will listen as they co-introduce the Railroad Safety Act of 2023. The bill aims to improve security. procedures for trains carrying hazardous materials, establishing requirements for roadside defect detectors, increasing fines for illegal activities, and creating a minimum requirement for two-man crews.

“It would be a good start if Norfolk Southern told us today what they’re going to do to the people of Ohio, Pennsylvania, and say they support the bill,” Casey said during the hearing. “It helps.”

Other congressional committees are also investigating the East Palestine derailment.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rogers, R-Wash. and Environment, Manufacturing and Critical Materials Subcommittee Chairman Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, on Thursday announced a hearing scheduled for March 28 to consider environmental measures for the derailment.

“The February train derailment disrupted the lives of people living in and around eastern Palestine,” Rogers and Johnson said in a statement. “We hear from federal, state and local officials about the efforts to date and the actions they are taking to address various environmental risks.”

On February 3, at approximately 9:00 p.m. local time, an eastbound Norfolk Southern freight train carrying 11 tank cars carrying hazardous materials derailed and burst into flames. According to the National Transportation Safety Board, the chemicals contain vinyl chloride, a highly flammable carcinogen.

Although residents and authorities have expressed concern, no casualties have been reported following the derailment. Railroad union representatives told Biden administration officials at a meeting last week that railroad workers had become ill while clearing a yard in eastern Palestine.

“As we speak, there’s been a week of garbage piles full of toxic chemicals that haven’t been cleared from the state in eastern Palestine,” Vance said during the hearing. “What if it rains, what if the very toxic dirt that we put out of the ground seeps into the ground and causes air and water problems?” Water for the people of East Palestine?

The NTSB issued a preliminary report on Feb. 23 that overheated wheel bearings contributed to the derailment and fire. When the train was ordered to stop, the bearing temperature was measured at 253 degrees above ambient temperature, well above the 200 degree critical temperature limit according to Norfolk Southern’s criteria.

Another Norfolk Southern train derailed in Ohio on Saturday, prompting residents near Springfield to evacuate. There were no hazardous materials on board the train and there were no injuries in the area, although there was a power outage.

Hours after that derailment, internal emails obtained by CNBC showed that Norfolk Southern was making extensive safety adjustments to prevent future incidents. A company spokesperson told CNBC that the rail carrier now requires trains that are more than 10,000 feet long to use distributed power, so the trains receive power from multiple locations along their length.

The South Norfolk incidents have attracted the attention of government authorities. The NTSB said Tuesday it had opened a special investigation into the company’s organizational and safety culture after the derailment. The Federal Railroad Administration announced that it will conduct an additional 60-day safety evaluation of the company.

“We see what the company has done with great success. Norfolk Southern spent $3.4 billion on stock buybacks last year and plans to do even more this year, Brown said Thursday. “That money could have been used to hire inspectors to install more hot box detectors along the road and hire more workers to repair vehicles and repair roads.”

On Wednesday, Norfolk Southern announced the creation of a new regional training center for first responders in Ohio, as well as an expansion of its operational awareness and response program, which teaches first responders how to respond safely. safety of railway accidents. Training courses begin March 22 at Norfolk Southern’s Bellevue campus in Ohio.

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