WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Bob Casey (D-PA), and John Fetterman (D-PA) introduced the Assistance for Local Heroes During Train Crises Act to support first responders on the front lines of hazardous train derailments. In East Palestine, Ohio and Darlington, Pennsylvania, local emergency responders, firefighters, and law enforcement risked their own wellbeing to protect their communities in the aftermath of Norfolk Southern’s disaster. This new legislation would create a new fund—paid for by companies that ship and carry these materials—to provide emergency responders, firefighters, and law enforcement with the financial resources needed to replace equipment, pay workers overtime, and address other urgent costs as well as compel railroads to notify local officials and emergency response groups when hazardous materials are moving through their communities.
“When big rail corporations wreak havoc on communities like East Palestine, local first responders are left to clean up their mess. Too often, cities and towns have no warning that hazmat is traveling through their communities, and they don’t have the resources and training they need to respond if a derailment happens,” said Senator Brown. “I’ve spoken with local officials, first responders, and residents on the scene in East Palestine, and I’ve heard the challenges these local heroes faced responding to this accident. Ohio communities should not have to foot the bill for corporate negligence and greed.”
“The first responders who risked their lives and wellbeing to protect Pennsylvania and Ohio from Norfolk Southern’s disaster are heroes who deserve much more than our gratitude,” said Senator Casey. “The Assistance for Local Heroes During Train Crises Act will help our communities better prepare for future derailments and cover the cost of damaged equipment, overtime pay, and more—all paid for by the companies that ship and carry these materials. Along with the Railway Safety Act, this legislation will help keep our communities safe from hazardous train derailments and hold railroads accountable for the damage these crises inflict.”
Last week, Brown testified at the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing prior to the Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw’s testimony. Brown called for Norfolk Southern to pay for the massive response required to make things right with the East Palestine community.
Brown is working with members of both parties to secure resources for Ohioans and to hold Norfolk Southern accountable for cleaning up the damage its corporate greed caused the community, due to the train derailment in East Palestine. Brown has been to East Palestine multiple times to meet with Ohioans and respond to their needs.
Brown led a bipartisan group of colleagues, including Ohio Senator J.D. Vance (R-OH), to introduce his Railway Safety Act of 2023 that will improve rail safety protocols, finally standing up to railroad company lobbyists so no other community has to deal with what East Palestine and others in Ohio, including residents of Springfield, Sandusky and Steubenville, have dealt with. Ohio news outlets have praised Brown’s bipartisan plan as “wise,” “commonsense” reforms that “could help keep people across the country safer.” The legislation comes after Brown worked with Vance and others to raise concerns to the NTSB about lax rail safety rules that allowed the crash to happen.