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Democrats on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee are urging Republicans to hold a rail safety hearing and expressing frustration that the panel hasn’t probed freight train derailments after the Norfolk Southern Corp. accident in Ohio drew national attention.
“Three months after the Norfolk Southern derailment in East Palestine on February 3 of this year, we remain concerned about this Committee’s lack of a hearing on rail safety,” Rep. Rick Larsen (D-Wash.), the panel’s ranking member, and other committee Democrats said in a letter Monday to Committee Chairman Sam Graves (R-Mo.) and Troy Nehls (R-Texas), chairman of the railroads subcommittee.
Democrats have repeatedly urged the House GOP to tighten rail-safety rules. Republicans have resisted holding a hearing and moving on such rules, saying they want to wait for a final report from the National Transportation Safety Board’s inquiry into the crash.
The House transportation committee “must meet its responsibility to conduct critical oversight of the rail industry by holding a hearing on rail safety,” the lawmakers wrote in the letter, obtained by Bloomberg Government. “Our constituents and communities deserve this basic consideration.”
The Senate, controlled by Democrats, held hearings after the derailment where Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw testified. The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee advanced bipartisan rail safety legislation (S. 576) earlier this month, prompting pushback from Republicans and rail industry groups with concerns that the proposals are too burdensome.
NTSB’s initial findings on the Ohio accident pointed to an overheated wheel and sensors that didn’t alert crew members in time. But its final findings on the causes could take a year or more to complete.
Graves has said lawmakers should wait for the investigation to be complete before proposing solutions.
“We disagree that the Committee should wait,” the Democratic lawmakers said in their letter, arguing that a slew of derailments since the Ohio incident and open NTSB recommendations show a need to move faster.
To contact the reporter on this story: Lillianna Byington in Washington at email@example.com