Norfolk Southern President and CEO Alan Shaw apologized for the train derailment and chemical spill impacting East Palestine, Ohio, but shied away from giving specific commitments on safety and worker sick leave at Thursday's Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works hearing.
The CEO testified before the Senate panel following the February derailment that released hazardous materials, while earlier another Norfolk Southern train derailed on Thursday morning in Alabama, marking the railroad company's third derailment since last month. Approximately 30 Norfolk Southern cars were involved, but they did not contain hazardous materials. No injuries were reported.
"I am deeply sorry for the impact this derailment has had on the people of East Palestine and surrounding communities, and I am determined to make it right," Shaw said in his opening statement.
Shaw told the panel that Norfolk Southern submitted a long-term removal plan that will guide their testing program for the community's water, air, and soil in an effort to clean the site safely and with urgency.
Additionally, he shared that Norfolk Southern has committed to reimbursements and investments of more than $20 million and said the company will be learning from the accident and working with public officials and the industry to improve railroad safety.
"We have already launched a series of immediate steps to enhance safety" based on the National Transportation Safety Board's preliminary report, Shaw testified.
The National Transportation Safety Board had found that an overheating bearing was likely the mechanical failure that led to the East Palestine derailment.
Still, throughout the hearing, several senators expressed frustration over Shaw's vague answers to their questions about specifics regarding safety protocols, compensating the local community, and ongoing railworker health issues.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), for instance, asked Shaw if he would commit to guarantee paid sick days to all Norfolk Southern workers.
"I will commit to continuing to discuss with them important quality of life issues," Shaw responded.
Sanders replied, "With all due respect, you sound like a politician here."
"Paid sick days is not a radical concept in the year 2023," he continued. "I'm not hearing you make that commitment to guarantee that to all of your workers."
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