Reported by Alex Daugherty for Politico Pro.
The majority of House members from Ohio on Friday introduced a bill that aims to improve rail safety in the wake of last month’s derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, including provisions related to notification, first responders, rail inspections and more.
The bill is being led by Democratic Rep. Emilia Sykes and Republican Rep. Bill Johnson, whose district includes East Palestine, and has the support of Rep. Rick Larsen (D-Wash.), the ranking member on the House Transportation Committee, who on Friday said he looks “forward to advancing this proposal and others designed to protect communities, strengthen rail safety, and hold operators accountable.”
Johnson called for swift action “to make much-needed changes to our nation’s railway safety standards” and noted that Ohio has experienced two additional derailments since the East Palestine derailment on Feb. 3.
The bill would require DOT to issue new rules based off the findings of an ongoing NTSB investigation into the derailment, increase the number of train inspections, require railroads to notify states and tribal governments of hazardous materials shipments, strengthens requirements for safety placards on train cars and new regulations for wheel bearings.
It would also increase penalties for rail safety violations, increase funding for hazardous materials training for first responders and require an audit of all federal rail inspections. The bill also includes higher maximum civil penalties for rail safety violations but does not include a requirement for two-person crews.
The bill, which Sykes called a “good first step,” was signed by all five of the state’s House Democrats and six of the state’s 10 House Republicans. Ohio GOP Reps. Jim Jordan, Warren Davidson, Bob Latta and Brad Wenstrup did not sign onto the bill.
Transportation Trades Department President Greg Regan praised the legislation but called for Congress to include the minimum crew requirements in any legislation that becomes law.
“It’s shameful that rail industry lobbyists are still prioritizing profits over people by opposing commonsense measures like two-person crew requirements,” Regan said in a statement.
Read more here.