Lawmakers renew calls for rail safety reforms after Pa.’s latest train derailment

That Feb. 3. derailment, in East Palestine, Ohio, involved 50 cars, 20 of which contained hazardous material. A decision to intentionally burn vinyl chloride gas inside the trains to prevent an explosion provoked health and safety concerns among residents of both Ohio and Pennsylvania.

It also spurred lawmakers to get involved. Members of the state’s congressional delegation introduced a series of proposals following the February crash to try and limit derailments and improve safety.

Fetterman on Monday reiterated his call for Congress to act on the Railway Safety Act, which would increase the maximum allowable fines on rail carriers for violating safety requirements and would mandate that certain freight trains be manned by a two-person crew.

“This derailment in PA is just the latest sign that something HAS to change,” Fetterman said in a tweet. “Whether it’s Norfolk Southern, CSX, or the other big rail companies: putting profits over public safety must end.”

Lawmakers at the state level have also called for new rail safety measures. In June, the state House voted 141 to 62 to approve legislation that would limit the length of freight and work trains to 8,500 feet, establish a two-person crew requirement and create a reporting system for the transportation of hazardous materials.

Controlled release at Ohio derailment site prompts mandatory evacuations

State Sen. Katie Muth, of Montgomery County, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness Committee, tweeted Monday that the Whitemarsh Township derailment underscored the need for reforms to the state’s rail laws.

“The train derailment in Montgomery County early this morning is yet another urgent warning of how critical it is that we move forward with improving railroad safety in the state,” Muth said in a tweet.

Data from the Federal Railroad Administration Office of Safety Analysis shows that Pennsylvania recorded 14 derailments from January to April of this year – the last month for which full data is available.

In 2022, 34 derailments were reported in the state, while 46 derailments were reported in 2021. In 2020 there were 34 derailments in the state, according to the agency.

State Rep. Mary Jo Daley, who represents the area where Monday’s derailment happened, said in a statement that she was “relieved” to hear that no one was harmed by the derailment.

“Emergency response teams from the township, state and county were on the scene early this morning to inspect the site and ensure that no hazardous materials had spilled,” Daley, a Democrat, said. “Now, work remains to plan the removal of these freight cars from the scene safely.”

Justin Sweitzer is a reporter for City & State Pa., where this story first appeared. 

Originally published at,by Special to the Capital-Star

Comments are closed.