Senators JD Vance, Marco Rubio Send Letter to U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg Demanding Answers on East Palestine Train Derailment

Ohio Senator JD Vance (R-OH) and Florida Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) sent a letter to U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg on Wednesday amid the ongoing situation surrounding the recent train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio.

On February 3rd, part of a Norfolk Southern train consisting of three locomotives, nine empties, and 141 loaded cars – 20 of which were carrying hazardous materials – derailed near the Pennsylvania-Ohio border.

Following the derailment of 50 train carriages, 10 of which were carrying hazardous materials, hundreds of local residents had to be evacuated due to the controlled release of poisonous gasses that was carried out on February 6th to prevent an explosion, The Ohio Star previously reported.

While an investigation is underway to decipher the cause of the derailment, Vance and Rubio’s letter requested answers surrounding the department of transportation’s oversight of the nation’s freight train system, specifically how it balances “building a safe, resilient rail industry across our country in relation to building a hyper-efficient one with minimal direct human input.”

In the letter, Vance and Rubio argued that the Biden administration prioritizes “efficiency over resilience in its national infrastructure and transportation systems,” citing the rail industries’ wide use of proprecision-scheduled railroading which “increases efficiency and drives down costs by moving more freight with fewer workers.”

Proprecision-scheduled railroading (PSR) is used by Norfolk Southern, which the senators said they believed played a part as a potential contributor to the derailment in East Palestine.

“By that token, it is not unreasonable to ask whether a crew of two rail workers, plus one trainee, is able to effectively monitor 150 cars,” the senators wrote. “While officials at the department’s Federal Railroad Administration have said that data are inconclusive when it comes to the effects of PSR on rail safety, derailments have reportedly increased in recent years, as has the rate of total accidents or safety-related incidents per track mile.”

The senators requested a written response to their letter within 30 days.

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Kaitlin Housler is a reporter at The Ohio Star and The Star News Network.




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