East Palestine derailment: Vance, Brown pushing for vote on safety bill a year later

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Ohio’s senators said they are pushing their legislative leaders in the U.S. Senate to bring the Railway Safety Act to a vote.

Saturday, Feb. 3, will mark one year since 38 cars of a Norfolk Southern freight train derailed in East Palestine, spewing toxins that fouled the air and ground in that small Ohio village and forced its residents to evacuate.

>> MORE COVERAGE: EPA proud of progress of cleanup so far in East Palestine

The railroad tracks that run through the backyard of the Conard family in East Palestine are a reminder of the hazmat disaster that continues to change the lives of the Conards and everyone else who lived in the area.

“We were just throwing their things into a bag,” Jessica Conard told a reporter with News Center 7′s sister station WPIX. “And I had no idea where I was going or what was happening.”

Some lawmakers began pushing for change in the weeks following the derailment.

But with no laws to show for their efforts, News Center 7 Investigative Reporter John Bedell pressed Ohio’s senators for answers about the status of the bill they introduced right after the East Palestine derailment.

“So we’ve got it out of the commerce committee on a bipartisan vote,” Republican Sen. J.D. Vance told Bedell. “And then the only really remaining hurdle is that the Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer, has to bring it up to the Senate floor for a full vote.

“I think he will do that. I think we have the votes to pass it. It’s just a question of when.”

Democrat Sen. Sherrod Brown expressed frustration with the lack of progress.

“This is why people hate Washington,” he said. “This should have been acted on before. I am pushing hard Senator Schumer, the majority leader, Senator [Mitch] McConnell, the Republican leader,” to get both of them to schedule the legislation for a floor vote.

News Center 7 reached out to Norfolk Southern this week, ahead of the one-year mark of the East Palestine disaster.

There CEO sent this statement, which in part, reads “We’ll continue keeping our promises and listening to the community. Together, we’re focused on economic development to help the East Palestine community thrive for the long term.”

Meantime, Ohio has sued Norfolk Southern for damages.

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost said he plans give an update about that lawsuit on Friday.

President Joe Biden is expected to visit East Palestine this month.