March 02, 2023

Congresswoman Bush & Oversight Committee Democrats Urge Chairman Comer to Press Norfolk Southern for Answers on Train Derailment


Following Norfolk Southern’s History of Mechanical Failures and Preventable Accidents, Committee Democrats Raise Concerns Over Scope of Republicans’ ‘Investigation’ of Train Derailment 

Washington D.C. (Mar. 2, 2023) — Yesterday, Congresswoman Cori Bush (MO-01), Ranking Member of the Oversight Subcommittee on Economic Growth, Energy Policy, and Regulatory Affairs, and Congressman Jamie Raskin (MD-08), Ranking Member of the Committee on Oversight and Accountability, along with Subcommittee Ranking Members Representatives Gerald E. Connolly (VA-11), Kweisi Mfume (MD-07), Katie Porter (CA-47), and Robert Garcia (CA-42), sent a letter to Oversight Chairman James Comer (KY-01) urging him to seek answers from Norfolk Southern, the owner and operator of the derailed train in East Palestine, Ohio, about its role in and response to the accident.  The letter follows Committee Republicans’ investigation launch into the train derailment which failed to acknowledge or seek answers from Norfolk Southern about its role in the accident, despite the company’s reported second-highest accident rates among all rail carriers since 2019 and history of aggressively lobbying against rail safety regulations. 

As Ohio Governor Mike DeWine recently proclaimed:  ‘They’re the ones who created the problem’—and we agree.   It is time to put partisan politics aside and ensure a full accounting of all the facts—no matter how inconvenient.  We therefore urge you, as Chair, to demand answers from Norfolk Southern about its role in and response to the February 3 train derailment,” wrote the Ranking Members. 

Norfolk Southern has a history of disregarding mechanical failures of its trains, resulting in an increase in preventable accidents that have released hazardous chemicals into communities across the country.  In October 2022, a Norfolk Southern train traveling through Ohio experienced an overheated wheel bearing.  Rather than allow sufficient time for repair, the train was authorized to continue its route and derailed four miles later in Sandusky, Ohio, dumping thousands of gallons of molten paraffin wax into the city.  Weeks after the October derailment, a Norfolk Southern train derailed in Illinois, releasing gallons of flammable chemicals and causing millions of dollars in damages.  In May 2022, a Norfolk Southern train derailed in Western Pennsylvania, sending several people to the hospital, releasing combustible distillates into the environment, and causing nearly $8 million in damages.  Days after Committee Republicans sent their letter to Secretary Buttigieg, another Norfolk Southern train derailed just outside of Greensboro, North Carolina

“Despite your pledge last December to use the powers of this Committee to ‘conduct credible oversight, identify problems, and propose reforms,’ your February 23, 2023, letter to Secretary Buttigieg failed to ask a single legitimate question aimed at obtaining ‘answers as to what caused the derailment.’  If Committee Republicans are serious about uncovering the truth, it must do so by conducting thorough, fact-based oversight, which includes seeking answers from Norfolk Southern about its potentially harmful policies and ongoing efforts to influence federal railroad safety measures.  These answers can only come from the company itself,” the Ranking Members continued.

In their letter, the Ranking Members request that Chairman Comer commit to sending a letter to Norfolk Southern by March 2, 2023, seeking documents and information that will allow the Committee to determine Norfolk Southern’s role in and response to the train derailment.

Click here to read today’s letter.