Accountability push continues against Norfolk Southern, nearly one year after catastrophic train derailment

30 January 2024- Pennsylvania U.S. Senators Bob Casey and John Fetterman today continued their push to hold Norfolk Southern accountable after the company announced that it would take steps towards joining the Federal Railroad Administration’s Confidential Close Call Reporting System (C3RS), a program that allows employees to anonymously report near-misses or close calls on railroads when they see them and protects employees from retribution when they report these events.

In August, Sens. Casey and Fetterman sent a letter to Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw regarding the company’s continued failure to join the program, after Norfolk Southern previously said they would join shortly after the derailment affecting East Palestine, OH and Darlington Township, PA.

As Norfolk Southern announced that the pilot program they negotiated will only cover approximately 1,000 workers represented by two unions in Georgia, Indiana, and Virginia, the Pennsylvania Senators pushed Norfolk Southern to fully follow through on its commitment and include all Norfolk Southern workers in Pennsylvania as well. 

“While the announcement that Norfolk Southern will finally begin to join this critical reporting system at our urging is a good first step, the company now needs to expand the group to include Pennsylvania workers and support the Railway Safety Act to do right by its workers and our Nation’s rail communities. With families in Darlington still hurting from last year’s derailment, we must do more to support communities suffering from the reckless failures of big rail companies and prevent Pennsylvanians from ever having to go through this hell again,” said Sen. Casey.

“Nearly one year after the train derailment in East Palestine, Norfolk Southern finally took our advice and began the process of joining the Federal Railroad Administration’s Confidential Close Call Reporting System. This is a positive step, but the fact that they haven’t committed to covering all workers in Pennsylvania – one of the two states most deeply affected by the toxic derailment a year ago – is just not enough. We need rail companies to implement these safety measures nationwide, and before a derailment, not after. Now, let’s pass the Railway Safety Act and make sure we hold these companies accountable,” said Sen. Fetterman.

Calling for Norfolk Southern to join C3RS was just one action that Sens. Casey and Fetterman have taken to push for accountability from Norfolk Southern and stand up for local residents affected by the toxic derailment.

Last year, Sen. Fetterman held a roundtable with local farmers in Darlington Township affected by the derailment, while while Sen. Casey visited Darlington Township to push for rail safety bills and hear from local residents.

Previously, Sens. Casey and Fetterman wrote to Shaw about the company’s legal and moral obligation to the residents of East Palestine and Darlington Township, demanding answers on how the company plans to be an active member of response and clean-up operations. They pressed the Environmental Protection Agency on its plan to hold Norfolk Southern accountable for releasing hazardous materials into the air and water. They wrote to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to share rail safety concerns they have heard from constituents, rail experts, and railroad workers as NTSB conducts its investigation into the derailment. And finally, they worked with Congressman Chris Deluzio (D-PA) to urge Norfolk Southern to provide assistance to Pennsylvanians in Darlington Township after repeated reports that Pennsylvania residents were being turned away at the Family Assistance Center in East Palestine.

The Pennsylvania Senators also joined with Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and J.D. Vance (R-OH) to introduce the bipartisan Railway Safety Act of 2023 which would take much needed steps to improve rail safety protocols and prevent future train disasters like the derailment that devastated East Palestine and Darlington Township. The bill will take key steps to improve rail safety protocols, such as enhancing safety procedures for trains carrying hazardous materials, establishing requirements for wayside defect detectors, creating a permanent requirement for railroads to operate with at least two-person crews, increasing fines for wrongdoing committed by rail carriers, and more.