Sens. John Fetterman (D-Pa.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) introduced a bill Thursday to further expand rail safety requirements in the wake of the East Palestine, Ohio, derailment.
The Railway Accountability Act, Fetterman’s first piece of legislation, aims to build on a slew of rail safety overhauls included in a bipartisan bill introduced earlier this month.
Fetterman’s bill would bolster train inspection requirements and direct the Federal Railroad Administration to study the cause of wheel derailments and offer regulatory solutions, among other measures.
“Communities like Darlington Township and East Palestine are too often forgotten and overlooked by leaders in Washington and executives at big companies like Norfolk Southern who only care about making their millions,” Fetterman said in a statement.
Pennsylvania and Ohio communities are still grappling with the aftermath of last month’s Norfolk Southern train derailment, which caused toxic chemicals to leak into the air and water.
Fetterman said that the newly unveiled bill makes clear that senators are “doing everything we can to prevent a disaster like this from happening again.” Fetterman aims to return to the Senate by mid-April following a lengthy hospital stay.
The East Palestine incident — and numerous train derailments following it — sparked outrage in Washington, but so far lawmakers have yet to agree on a solution.
The bipartisan Rail Safety Act, introduced by Sens. Brown and J.D. Vance (R-Ohio), would increase safety requirements for trains carrying hazardous materials, hike fines for safety violations and require more frequent inspections of rail cars, among other measures.
That bill has strong support from Senate Democrats and some Republicans. But it’s drawn opposition from the railroad industry’s top lobbying group and conservative advocacy groups, which argued that more regulation would be costly and wouldn’t prevent derailments.
Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw declined to endorse the bipartisan legislation during a hearing last week, but said he’d support some aspects of the bill such as funding for first-responder hazardous materials training.