Following NTSB East Palestine Meeting, Cantwell Renews Calls for Congress to Pass Bipartisan Rail Legislation

June 25, 2024

U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, renewed her calls for Congress to pass the bipartisan Railway Safety Act following today’s National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) public hearing in East Palestine, Ohio, on its investigation into the cause of last year’s disastrous train derailment.

“The NTSB’s public meeting today once again showed how we need a stronger regulator and safety standards to hold railroads accountable,” said Sen. Cantwell. Railroads have been treating derailments as the cost of doing business – each incident poses a risk to communities, train crews, first responders and the environment. The Railway Safety Act takes key steps to address both the East Palestine derailment and the 1,285 other derailments that happened last year alone, including 39 in the state of Washington. Congress must act to strengthen safety oversight, require the use of advanced safety technologies, and improve emergency preparedness on our railways.”

The bipartisan Railway Safety Act of 2023, which passed the Senate Commerce Committee in May 2023, includes many of the NTSB recommendations discussed at the hearing, including creating standards for defect detection systems for wheel bearings, expediting the phase-out of unsafe tank cars, expanding the definition of high-hazard flammable trains, giving more support to first responders and firefighters and improving hazardous materials spill response plans.

Since the East Palestine derailment, derailments have increased by 13.5 percent, according to data compiled by the Federal Railroad Administration as reported by the New York Times. Last year, Sen. Cantwell joined ‘rail town’ mayors and local officials from the National League of Cities (NLC) to call for the passage of the legislation. The NLC launched an interactive map showing the alarming number of train derailments nationwide. According to the NLC, an average of three trains derail per day, with as many as half potentially carrying hazardous substances. The top five states with derailments over the last decade are Texas, Illinois, California, Pennsylvania and Ohio.