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WASHINGTON, D.C. – The release of vinyl chloride and other chemicals into the air and ground surrounding East Palestine, Ohio raises serious environmental concerns and has long-term implications for the town and those living in the region. As investigators look into the cause of the February 3, 2023 derailment, additional questions are being raised regarding the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) regulatory oversight and Norfolk Southern Railway’s business practices.

U.S. Senators JD Vance (R-OH) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) sent a letter to DOT Secretary Pete Buttigieg questioning the Department’s efforts to balance safety and hyper-efficiency. The letter reads, in part:

“In particular, we request information from the U.S. Department of Transportation regarding its oversight of the United States’ freight train system and, more generally, 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.”

“[I]t is not unreasonable to ask whether a crew of two rail workers, plus one trainee, is able to effectively monitor 150 cars. 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 trade-off for Class I rail companies, of course, has been reduced labor costs, having shed nearly one-third of their workforce.”

Read the full letter here.