By STEPHEN GROVES
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Norfolk Southern's CEO is offering support for some parts of a bipartisan U.S. Senate bill to put tougher safety regulations on railroads after last month's fiery hazardous materials train derailment on the Ohio-Pennsylvania border.
CEO Alan Shaw is under pressure from senators and federal safety regulators to step up his commitment to safety regulations as he appears before the Senate Commerce Committee on Wednesday. Under aggressive questioning from senators earlier this month in a separate hearing, he committed to voluntary safety upgrades and earnestly apologized for the derailment that upended life in East Palestine, Ohio.
This time, Shaw says in prepared remarks released Tuesday that Norfolk Southern will "support legislative efforts to enhance the safety of the freight rail industry." But he does not address several key provisions of the Railway Safety Act, including increased fines for safety violations and designating trains that carry flammable gas as highly hazardous.
Shaw supports provisions in the act for railroads to fund training for emergency crews, a review of regulations for rail care inspections every three years and accelerating the phaseout of older tank car models.
Shaw also says there are "areas in which we believe Congress could go further with safety legislation," including stricter standards for tank car design and research into technology that would detect problems with rail cars.
No one was immediately injured in the Feb. 3 derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, but state and local officials decided to release and burn toxic vinyl chloride from five tanker cars, prompting the evacuation of half of the roughly 5,000 residents. Scenes of billowing smoke above the village, alongside reports from residents that they still suffer from illnesses, have turned high-level attention to railroad safety and how dangerous materials are transported.
The Senate Commerce Committee will also hear from the National Transportation Safety Board chair Jennifer Homendy, the organization representing railroads, an East Palestine resident and Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, as well as the two Ohio senators pushing the Railway Safety Act -- Republican JD Vance and Democrat Sherrod Brown.