Delaware News

Support first responders in the event of a derailment

When big rail companies like Norfolk Southern wreak havoc in communities like Eastern Palestine, local first responders must clean up their messes.

These cities and towns often have no warning that hazardous materials are passing through their communities. If a derailment does occur, especially in smaller communities, first responders don’t always have the resources and training they need to respond.

Large cities and counties may have the resources to apply for more training grants or hire more people, but railroad tracks run through virtually every town in Ohio, including places like Eastern Palestine where firefighters are completely voluntary.

I spoke with local officials, first responders and residents of eastern Palestine and other cities where derailments have occurred, about the challenges these local heroes face.

That is why I introduced the Local Heroes Rail Crisis Assistance Act. This would allow the Federal Railroad Administration to declare a “dangerous rail occurrence” to quickly provide funding to help state and local emergency response groups, fire departments and law enforcement agencies cover the costs of intervention in the event of a dangerous derailment. It would also give local emergency organizations the financial flexibility they need to protect their communities, so they don’t have to choose between preparing for a disaster and dealing with all the other day-to-day emergencies.

All of this would be paid for by companies, not taxpayers, through fees imposed on companies transporting these materials. Ohio communities shouldn’t have to foot the bill for corporate neglect.

Earlier this week I testified at another hearing with the CEO of Norfolk Southern with Senator Vance, Governor DeWine and a mother from eastern Palestine where we heard the same talking points about the CEO’s public relations and the railroad’s lobbyist on how seriously they supposedly take safety.

But we do know that hazardous materials were on the train that derailed in Springfield earlier this month, and the only thing that kept this community from becoming another Eastern Palestine was luck.

From this bill supporting first responders to my bipartisan legislation to improve rail safety with Senator Vance, I will always stand up to corporate lobbyists on behalf of Ohio communities.

Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) represents the state in the US Senate.


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