I’m writing with deep alarm about the horrific train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio.
I understand that Donald Trump rescinded an Obama-era rule requiring special brakes--called ECP brakes--on trains transporting flammable liquids. These brakes can stop most derailments, and would have made this one far less catastrophic.
I also understand that Norfolk Southern and the Association of American Railroads, a lobbying group that represents Norfolk Southern and other railroad companies, fought Obama's rule because installing such brakes required them to take a small cut in their profits. In fact they have fought all common sense safety regulations— including one that would have expanded the definition of high-hazard flammable trains—while simultaneously cutting staff and adding more cars to trains. This is a formula for disaster, and that’s exactly what it has produced.
Meanwhile, in March 2022, Norfolk Southern announced a plan to spend $10 billion on stock buybacks. The year before that their CEO James A. Squires received $14 million in total compensation.
In short, the horrific train derailment and subsequent environmental disaster happening in East Palestine was caused by a lack of regulation due to the leverage of corporate lobbyists. Railroad barons are getting rich, railway employees are getting pushed to do an increasingly dangerous job, derailments are increasing, but safety protocols? Bad for profits!
This is unacceptable! I am asking you to:
Demand that the DOT require ECP brakes on all trains carrying hazardous materials
Expand the definition of high-hazard flammable trains
Insist that rail companies stop cutting costs at the expense of safety and workers’ wellbeing
To quote Grady Cothen, a former safety official at the FRA who spent nearly four decades at the agency, “The price for not moving forward…will be more derailments, more releases of hazardous materials, more communities impacted.”
We need to see a far more proactive and less industry-assuaging approach from you, Secretary Buttigieg, and the DOT. Thanks.
▶ First sent on February 15 by Jess Craven