Washington — The leader of Norfolk Southern is appearing before a Senate panel on Thursday to answer questions about the train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, last month that set off a wave of concerns about threats to the environment and public health.
CEO Alan Shaw is appearing alongside federal and local environmental officials for the hearing before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Shaw, in his opening remarks, told committee members that he is “deeply sorry” for the impact the derailment had on the East Palestine community and that he is “determined to make it right.”
The Norfolk Southern chief also highlighted financial assistance available for families affected by the toxic train incident and first responders, including the railroad company’s $20 million commitment for reimbursements and investments.
“We will clean the site thoroughly, and with urgency,” Shaw told senators. “We are making progress every day.”
How to watch Norfolk Southern CEO testify before Senate panel
What: Norfolk Southern CEO testifies before Senate Environment and Public Works Committee
Date: Thursday, March 9, 2023
Time: 10 a.m. ET
Location: U.S. Capitol – Washington, D.C.
Online stream: Live on CBS News in the player above and on your mobile or streaming device.
The Senate panel also heard from a panel of three senators — Sens. Sherrod Brown and JD Vance of Ohio, and Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania. The trio co-sponsored a rail safety bill that aims to prevent future derailments and imposes new requirements for rail carriers carrying hazardous materials.
“It shouldn’t take a train derailment for elected officials to put partisanship aside and work together for the people we serve – not corporations like Norfolk Southern,” Brown told his Senate colleagues. “Lobbyists for the rail companies spent years fighting every effort to strengthen rules to make our trains and rail lines safer. Now Ohioans are paying the price.”
The derailment of the Norfolk Southern train took place Feb. 3, when 38 rail cars, 11 of which contained hazardous materials including vinyl chloride, went off the tracks, starting a fire.
Concerned about an explosion, officials authorized a controlled burn of the chemicals, though the release raised more fears from residents about health risks associated with exposure to the toxic chemicals that were released into the air.
Officials with the Environmental Protection Agency have sought to reassure residents of East Palestine and surrounding communities that the water is safe and air quality normal.
The National Transportation Safety Board released a preliminary report that found a wheel bearing overheated just before the derailment.
Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg visited the site of the derailment on Feb. 23, but his trip to East Palestine came amid criticisms that he waited too long to respond to the incident. Buttigieg has said he didn’t visit East Palestine sooner because he wanted to give the NTSB and emergency workers space to do their jobs.