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Majority Leader Schumer Floor Remarks On Republican Efforts To Deregulate The Rail Industry And The Need To Pass Bipartisan Rail Safety Legislation

Washington, D.C.  Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today spoke on the Senate floor on the need to pass bipartisan rail safety legislation and condemned past Republican actions to deregulate the rail industry. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:

As East Palestine continues grappling with the aftermath of last month’s derailment, and after a second derailment in Ohio last weekend, Norfolk Southern announced yesterday a new six-point plan they claim will “immediately enhance the safety of its operations.

But here’s the question all of us should be asking: why weren’t these protocols already in place?

When Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw comes before the Senate on Thursday, this is just one of the important questions he must answer.

Here are a few others:

What steps is Norfolk Southern taking to prevent future disasters like the one in East Palestine?

Why did Norfolk Southern spend years lobbying against safety regulations intended to prevent accidents like the one last month?

How will Norfolk Southern ensure communities along train routes with hazardous materials get the resources they need to respond to accidents?

And why did Norfolk Southern launch a $10 billion stock buyback program last year, when that money could have gone upgrading safety equipment, hiring more workers, or paying their workers better wages?

We need answers to these questions. We need an honest, candid discussion about how we can prevent accidents like this in the future.

Part of that discussion must acknowledge a plain truth: Republicans have spent years listening to the rail lobby and opposing safety rules in the name of boosting rail company profits.

I’m talking about the Trump Administration loosening brake maintenance and inspection regulations, attempting to deregulate train crew size, and nullifying a rule to implement safety programs.

And I’m talking about Republicans in this chamber pushing for the “self-regulation” of railroads and leaving safety up to the whims of the free market, to allow the transportation of more hazardous materials without proper oversight, to encourage the automation of track inspection at the expense of safety. All of these create dangers. We don’t know yet all the details of what exactly happened in East Palestine, but we know these deregulatory actions make things less safe.

I hope that we can work together—Democrats and Republicans—to put a much-needed, long-overdue check on Big Rail and make sure another East Palestine never happens. And I commend the bipartisan legislation, led by the senators from Ohio, Senator Brown, a Democrat, and Senator Vance, a Republican, to move things forward.