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Statement on House Version of RAIL Act

By Admin

WASHINGTON — Today, the Ohio Democratic congressional delegation announced the introduction of the bipartisan Reducing Accidents in Locomotives (RAIL) Act, led by Rep. Emilia Strong Sykes (OH-13) and Rep. Bill Johnson (OH-06):

“Public safety transcends political parties and congressional boundaries, which is why I am proud to co-lead the RAIL Act — bipartisan, commonsense legislation to prevent future train derailment disasters like we have seen in East Palestine and across the United States — with Rep. Johnson,” said Rep. Emilia Sykes (OH-13). “The RAIL Act will implement effective measures to protect our communities, increase accountability for railroad corporations, and ensure no American family has to worry about the threat of a toxic derailment happening in their backyard. There is still more work to be done to comprehensively address this glaring issue of public safety, and I look forward to working with the Ohio delegation and members of Congress across the country to ensure other communities are not subjected to corporations who put profits over people or endanger our environment. There are more actions to come to prioritize the safety of hardworking rail crews across the country.”

“The RAIL Act will help make the freight rail system safer for rail workers and communities like East Palestine. We are committed to working with Congress on additional safety reforms. It’s shameful that rail industry lobbyists are still prioritizing profits over people by opposing commonsense measures like two-person crew requirements,” said Transportation Trades Department (TTD) President Greg Regan.

“The RAIL Act is an important starting point, and we applaud Rep. Sykes and members of Congress who are actively trying to make the American rail system safer. We look forward to working with Congress to enact additional measures to codify two-person crew requirements. It’s unfortunate that the AAR and the railroad lobbyists are back doing everything they can to thwart meaningful rail safety legislation,” said National Legislative Director for the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation Workers (SMART)- Transportation Division Gregory Hynes.

“Democratic and Republican Members of Congress representing the congested northern Ohio rail corridor are eager to address aging rail infrastructure, increased traffic, and rail safety. The stakes are too high for more delay,” said Rep. Marcy Kaptur (OH-09). “We must also look to the future and come together to protect workers and deliver transformative and safe commercial and passenger rail solutions. While the RAIL Act begins to address the multitude of problems, there will be more work needed to fully address the longstanding issues that have led to three major derailments in Ohio in the last six months alone. The tools are at our disposal, and the time is now. Let’s do what we in the industrial Midwest do best, let’s get to work.”

“The environmental, health and economic disaster in East Palestine demands a strong response to make sure that preventable accidents like this never happen again – not in Ohio nor anywhere else,” Rep. Joyce Beatty (OH-03) said. “Congress must act to pass legislation to hold the rail industry accountable and protect the safety of our citizens.”

“Protecting our communities means enacting effective policies to safeguard our railways,” said Rep. Shontel Brown (OH-11). “The bipartisan RAIL Act will establish meaningful reforms that improve accountability of railroad corporations, and strengthen inspection protocols, especially regarding the transportation of hazardous materials. Toxic derailments pose a serious environmental risk to our communities in Ohio, particularly for marginalized groups already suffering from environmental injustices. This legislation is a critical step toward ensuring that every community can live free from fear of environmental dangers caused by toxic derailments and help avert future catastrophic accidents on our rail systems.”

“Folks in East Palestine need to know that this won’t happen again, and Representatives Sykes and Johnson are bringing people together to pass this bipartisan RAIL Act.  By increasing federal inspection capabilities, preventative measures, and funding for first responders, the bipartisan RAIL Act is a critically important first step to strengthen American rail safety for the 21st century. I’m all in to get this passed and to work with this same bipartisan group to make sure families in East Palestine are made whole and get their town back,” said Rep. Greg Landsman (OH-01).

The RAIL Act improves railway safety by:

  • Directing the Secretary of Transportation to promulgate new rules to improve safety based off the findings of the NTSB investigation in conjunction with the Federal Railroad Administration
  • Increasing inspections on all trains, including those carrying hazardous materials
  • Requiring railroad corporations to provide notification in advance to pertinent State emergency response commissioners, tribal emergency response commission, or any other State or tribal agency regarding the transportation of hazardous materials
  • Strengthening requirements pertaining to safety placards that would have assisted emergency responders in identifying the hazardous materials in the rail cars on-site
  • Strengthening regulations to prevent wheel bearing failures, which caused the East Palestine train derailment
  • Increasing maximum penalties for violations of rail safety regulations
  • Increasing funding for Hazardous Materials Training for First Responders
  • Auditing federal rail inspection programs

Ohio — which has one of the country’s largest railroad networks — ranks third worst in the nation for serious train accident accidents and hazardous materials spills. From 2019 through November 2022, 281 train accidents occurred in Ohio.

11 members of the Ohio delegation are original co-sponsors of the RAIL Act, including Reps. Max Miller (OH-07), Greg Landsman (OH-01), Troy Balderson (OH-12), Marcy Kaptur (OH-09), Mike Carey (OH-15), Joyce Beatty (OH-03), Dave Joyce (OH-14), Shontel Brown (OH-11), Mike Turner (OH-10).