Schumer wants answers about NY rail safety

A plume rises over East Palestine, Ohio, as a result of the controlled detonation of a portion of the derailed Norfolk Southern trains, Feb. 6, 2023. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer wants answers from freight rail operators about how they are working with upstate New York communities to address rail safety concerns.

Schumer, D-NY, sent a letter to seven companies, including CSX and Norfolk Southern, demanding information about their outreach to local governments and how they ensure that municipalities are capable of responding to incidents involving trains carrying hazardous materials.

The questions come after a Norfolk Southern train derailed in East Palestine, Ohio, in February. In the aftermath of the derailment, there have been environmental and health concerns due to the hazardous materials that were dumped from the train.

Schumer noted that CSX has a freight rail line that runs along a similar path as the Erie Canal and passes through several upstate cities, including Syracuse. Norfolk Southern’s route runs through the Southern Tier.

“Our tracks regularly carry trains with hazardous materials,” he said. “That’s a risk to our communities and these major rail companies have a responsibility, if they are going to carry this stuff, to make sure New Yorkers are kept safe.”

One concern raised by Schumer is whether rail companies are communicating with local governments about the hazardous materials being carried on the trains. If there is an incident that requires an emergency response, he explained that fire departments and other first responders need to have the proper equipment and materials to address a spill.

On a call with reporters Tuesday, Schumer urged rail operators to increase transparency and share information with local agencies.

“These rail companies need to be crystal clear and consistent with our public officials, with our firefighters and first responders so they have all the info they need to keep upstate safe,” he said. “It’s not an option. It’s a necessity.”


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