Ohio Sens. Sherrod Brown (D) and J.D. Vance (R) will introduce legislation aimed at preventing more toxic train derailments like the one that spilled hazardous chemicals in East Palestine, Ohio, earlier last month.
The bipartisan pair, according to The Associated Press, will propose the Railway Safety Act of 2023, geared at strengthening federal safety regulations and setting up new financial consequences for violators.
“Through this legislation, Congress has a real opportunity to ensure that what happened in East Palestine will never happen again,” Vance said in a statement.
The expected proposal comes in the wake of the derailment in East Palestine earlier this month, when some of the 38 derailed cars on a Norfolk Southern Railway train leaked the hazardous chemical vinyl chloride into the local air, water and lands.
The incident has sparked renewed scrutiny over federal regulations for the rail system and for cars carrying toxic chemicals throughout the country as residents return from evacuation orders and assess the environmental damages and health dangers.
The bill would make rail carriers transporting hazardous chemicals to communicate emergency response plans to states they pass through, and set a minimum for the number of people on a train operation crew, among other requirements.
Vance and Brown on Tuesday also sent a letter to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan and Centers for Disease Control Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky stressing medical concerns for residents affected by the derailment and urging steps to ensure access to medical testing.
“The residents of East Palestine and the surrounding community deserve to know if their health has been compromised by this disaster now and for years to come,” the senators wrote.
On Tuesday, House Democrat Reps. Ro Khanna (Calif.) and Chris Deluzio (Pa.) introduced the Decreasing Emergency Railroad Accident Instances Locally (DERAIL) Act, also aimed at tightening regulations on trains carrying hazardous materials, in the lower chamber.
“Standing up to the railroads and for our public safety is a righteous fight — putting the common good ahead of their corporate greed,” DeLuzio said.