In the aftermath of the train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio that resulted in a massive release of toxic chemicals, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) is calling on safety reform in the railroad industry.
The Feb. 4, 2023, incident involved a train more than 100 cars long with 20 of those cars carrying hazardous materials. Ten of the cars carrying hazardous materials derailed, leading to the evacuation of more than 5,000 residents in nearby East Palestine.
By Feb. 23, 2023, clean-up crews had removed 4,588 cubic yards of soil and 1.1 million gallons of contaminated water from the area.
These reforms include:
- requiring the owners of tank cars to expedite the phase-in of safer DOT 117 tank cars
- requiring railroads to offer paid sick leave for rail workers
- requiring railroads to protect workers who spot and report safety issues from retaliation
- requiring railroads to deploy new inspection technologies without seeking permission to abandon human inspections
- requiring railroads to provide proactive advance notification to state emergency response teams when hazardous gas tank cars are moving through their states
- having DOT advance the train crew size rule
- having DOT initiate a focused safety inspection program on routes that trains with large volumes of hazardous material travel
- having DOT initiate a focused inspection program of legacy tank cars and the shippers and railroads who have chosen not to upgrade to the safer DOT 117 tank cars
- having DOT pursue further rulemaking on high-hazard flammable trains and electronically controlled pneumatic brakes
- calling on Congress to increase maximum fines that DOT can issue to rail companies for violating safety regulations
- calling on Congress to support expanded rules governing highly-hazardous shipments
- calling on Congress to support modernized braking regulations and increase the use of electronically controlled pneumatic brakes, and
- calling on Congress to increase funding to expand hazardous materials training for first responders.