Washington, D.C. – Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today spoke on the Senate floor calling on the CEO of Norfolk Southern and the chair of the NTSB to provide transparency and commit to action to strengthen rail industry safety during tomorrow’s Commerce Committee hearing. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:
The many consequences of Norfolk Southern’s derailment in East Palestine continue to reverberate today.
That accident, and the many that have occurred since, have forced Congress to confront an ugly realization: years of lobbying from rail companies, and deregulation under Republican Administrations, have empowered the rail industry to put profits over people and endanger communities’ safety.
Tomorrow, the CEO of Norfolk Southern will return to the Senate and testify before the Commerce Committee. He will be joined by Jennifer Homendy from the National Transpiration Safety Board, as well as by two colleagues, Senators Brown and Vance, who pushed the bipartisan Railway Safety Act.
We’ve heard Norfolk Southern’s CEO say he is sorry for what happened in East Palestine. We have also heard him say he is open to legislative efforts to enhance safety.
I hope Norfolk Southern’s CEO follows up his apology with candid answers to some important questions:
One, why did Norfolk Southern, after seeing a record $3.3B in profits last year, pursue billions – billions – in stock buybacks instead of putting that money towards safety and towards their workers?
Two, why did the freight rail industry spend so much time and money lobbying for deregulation while also cutting the industry’s workforce by roughly 20%?
And three, and will the Chair of the NTSB, who will testify tomorrow as well, also commit to expanding their investigation into Norfolk Southern to include all Class 1 freight rail companies, so we can get at the heart of the problems that lie within the rail industry?
The Senate needs answers. Communities like East Palestine need answers and so many others deserve answers as well. I hope we’ll hear some tomorrow.