Ohio train derailment: Hazmat incidents in Norfolk Southern since 2012

(NewsNation) — Railroad accidents involving Norfolk Southern dangerous goods wagons have skyrocketed over the past decade, data from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) shows.

Last year, 770 cars of the company Vehicles carrying dangerous goods were involved in accidents, up from just 79 cars in 2012.

A Norfolk Southern employee who was spoken to NewsNation indicated that job cuts were responsible for the recent uptrend. The rail company has shed about 40% of its workforce since 2015, according to filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Others argue that the downsizing contributed to the recent incident in East Palestine, Ohio surveillance video shows the train may have had trouble for over 20 miles before derailing.

“They’ve gone from not requiring a conductor on the train to just a train driver,” said Emily Roark, injury and accident attorney. “What is important here is that the train was on fire, we believe for 20 miles. If there had been a conductor on that train, they would have turned around and checked. They would have said: ‘Hey, the train is on fire, let’s get off.’ But they didn’t.”

Some experts have speculated about this increased train sizes also contributed to the crash.

New questions have also arisen over the company’s lobbying efforts to ease rail restrictions.

In 2022, Norfolk Southern spent $1.8 million lobbying the Department of Transportation, the Federal Railroad Administration, and the White House. The company donated an additional $1.3 million to members of Congress last year.

Notably, the railroad has contributed to the campaign of US Rep. Bill Johnson (R-Ohio) – whose district includes East Palestine – four of the last six times he has run for office.

“Trains don’t just accidentally fall off the tracks, what happens is train companies are lobbying Congress to keep standards getting lower,” Roark said.

NewsNation has repeatedly requested an interview with Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw, although the request has not yet been granted.

Meanwhile, the effects in East Palestine cannot be overlooked.

Some residents have complained Headache, possibly due to the burning of hazardous chemicals that were in some wagons. Others have claimed their pets have fallen ill or discovered dead fish in the nearby stream.

But the impact on the environment is only part of the story. Some residents are also suffering financially.

Xana Doss owns a gas station in eastern Palestine and says her business is dead. Doss has been fighting Norfolk Southern over a retaining wall on her property, which she says was ruined by her moves.

She said she’s been trying to contact the company about the issue for a year, but no one has responded.

Now the wall is just one of many worries.

“My girls had itchy eyes, sore throats and headaches,” said Doss, who now fears her livelihoods and health and safety could be at risk after the derailment.

https://www.abc27.com/national/ohio-train-derailment-norfolk-southern-hazardous-material-incidents-up-since-2012/ Ohio train derailment: Hazmat incidents in Norfolk Southern since 2012

Brian Ashcraft

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