(WHTM) — Does Pennsylvania need tougher regulations for freight trains?
Both Republicans and Democrats want to stop what happened on the Ohio-Pennsylvania border from happening again.
Three months after the Norfolk Southern train jumped the tracks and derailed the lives of hundreds, lawmakers are pushing a bill trying to make sure it never happens again.
“At the end of the day, it’s about safety. And our communities are concerned, they’re scared,” said Rep. Robert Matzie (D-Beaver County).
The bill has broad bipartisan support with only two Republicans voting no.
“I think we should be focused on rail safety. I don’t think the way to do it is draft a bill and a week later vote it out of committee,” said Rep. Natalie Mihalek (R-Allegheny, Washington Counties).
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But it was voted out of committee, and co-sponsors say if it makes it to the governor’s desk, Pennsylvania will be better off.
The legislation looks at the length of trains, safety practices, staffing levels, and would implement a new reporting system.
“The fox was gardening the hen house because the rail companies are responsible for monitoring maintenance, and given their track record we felt that wasn’t enough,” Matzie added.
Rep. Matzie says Norfolk Sothern’s initial response was awful. But some members are concerned the bill oversteps a federal law that only Congress can regulate commerce.
Matzie says there’s a work around.
“There’s a court case from 1993 – CSX v. Easterwood – it said that state-implemented safety laws, regulations, not covered or specifically preempted by federal law were legal and that’s the court case we’re really relying on,” he said.
Matzie says CSX and Norfolk Southern are pushing back.
“Rather than come to the table with solutions, they just wanted us to stop. And I think that’s been done for 100 years,” said Matzie.
abc27 reached out to both companies. Norfolk Southern said they can’t comment on pending legislation. CSX has not responded.
Matzie says he’s optimistic the bill will get past the House. From there it will go to the State Senate, and if it passes there, the governor’s desk.