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Norfolk Southern CEO, DeWine to praise rail safety legislation at hearing

The chief executive of Norfolk Southern and Ohio Republican Gov. Mike DeWine plan to praise a bipartisan rail safety bill that’s run up to GOP resistance in Congress at a Senate hearing on Wednesday — a development the bill’s backers hope could provide for more momentum for the legislation.

Alan Shaw, chief executive of the railroad company that operated a train carrying toxic material that derailed near East Palestine, Ohio, last month, will say the Railway Safety Act includes “measures with the potential to enhance safety and improve outcomes for our industry, our customers, and the communities we serve,” according to his prepared remarks obtained by The Washington Post.

DeWine will say he agrees “with the changes in the law” proposed by the bill, according to his prepared remarks. DeWine also sent a letter to Shaw, saying he expects him to “deliver for the people of East Palestine by fully supporting these legislative efforts until they are enacted.”

The legislation, introduced by Ohio Sens. J.D. Vance (R) and Sherrod Brown (D) in the wake of the disaster, has run up against resistance from some Republicans in the Senate and House who say they are wary of pushing for new regulations before the federal government releases a comprehensive report outlining the causes of the accident, which could take a year or longer. House Republicans have introduced their own rail safety measure, which is similar to the Senate’s, and which DeWine also praised.

Vance and Brown are both set to speak at Wednesday’s Senate Commerce Committee hearing, as well to push for more support for their bill. The fact that even the chief executive of the rail company facing the most scrutiny for the disaster is not publicly objecting to the legislation may help convince more regulation-wary Republicans to sign on, the bill’s supporters hope.

“There is a strong consensus growing that Congress must take action to increase the safety of America’s railways,” said William Martin, a spokesman for Vance. “We look forward to tomorrow’s hearing.”

The National Transportation Safety Board’s preliminary report noted that an overheated wheel bearing was likely a factor in the accident, which the proposed legislation would address. The bill would also hike fines for safety violations, increase inspections and stiffen safety standards.

Shaw did not endorse the legislation outright in his prepared remarks, instead highlighting pieces of it he agreed with in “principle,” including “establishing performance standards, maintenance standards, and alert thresholds for safety sensors.” He did not endorse the increased fines for railroads laid out in the bill.

The NTSB and Federal Railroad Administration announced reviews of Norfolk Southern’s safety practices after one of its employees was killed in Cleveland and a train derailed in Springfield, Ohio. The Association of American Railroads said this month that it would voluntarily implement some new safety measures in the wake of the disaster, including expanding a network of sensors designed to catch overheating bearings. Its chief executive, Ian Jefferies, is also set to appear at Wednesday’s hearing.

Ian Duncan contributed to this report.

This post appeared first on The Washington Post

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