Senators ask agencies for more info, to hold Norfolk Southern accountable after train derails

U.S. senators from Ohio and Pennsylvania sent joint letters Wednesday to U.S. EPA Administrator Michael Regan and National Transportation Safety Board chair Jennifer L. Homendy expressing concerns about the train derailment and release of hazardous materials in East Palestine.

The letters from Sens. Sherrod Brown and J.D. Vance of Ohio and Bob Casey and John Fetterman of Pennsylvania first thanked the government agencies for their responses to the crash.

“While we are grateful no injuries or fatalities resulted directly from the derailment,” both letters said, “we are concerned about the release of hazardous materials into the air and groundwater across the region surrounding the derailment.”

In the letter to the EPA, the senators asked the agency to have Norfolk Southern pay for the damage and cleanup efforts.

“We ask that EPA uses its existing authorities under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA) to ensure that Norfolk Southern pays for the clean-up of these hazardous materials, as well as compensates residents and affected businesses as required,” the letter said.

The senators also asked the EPA continue to monitor the land, air and water in the area to watch for long-term effects of the exposure, and asked for a detailed breakdown of the EPA’s authority to hold Norfolk Southern accountable, how much data the EPA has access to, whether the EPA has enough resources and what the agency’s plans are to monitor the area and health of the residents and first responders.

In the letter to the NTSB, the senators urged the board to continue its independent investigation into the causes of the derailment, saying that they plan to use its findings to advance safety measures with Congress and the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Senators also brought up concerns that they have heard may have contributed to the crash, including safety practices for high-hazard flammable trains, axle and journal bearing inspections, railcar inspections, the lack of electronically controlled pneumatic brakes, railroad staffing practices and railcar and track maintenance.

“The NTSB’s independent investigation to determine probable causes of the East Palestine derailment is critical to preventing future derailments involving hazardous materials in Ohio and Pennsylvania, as well as across the nation,” the letter said.

The full text of the letters can be seen below.

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