NTSB to Approve East Palestine Report June 25

Freight Rail Safety Bills Not Advanced After 2023 Derailment
Jennifer Homendy
NTSB Chairwonan Jennifer Homendy, shown during a February 2023 news conference, said earlier this year, "The public and Congress must be able to count on us to determine the right solutions to improve safety." (Ting Shen/Bloomberg News)

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WASHINGTON — This month, the National Transportation Safety Board is scheduled to approve its investigative findings about a freight train derailment​ last year in East Palestine, Ohio.

The independent agency’s findings will be announced June 25 during a board meeting at East Palestine High School. It is expected to include details about probable cause as well as safety recommendations.

A Norfolk Southern train derailed in East Palestine on Feb. 3, 2023.

NTSB Chairwoman Jennifer Homendy has updated Congress about the report, as well as the agency’s commitment to integrity and the investigative process.

“We cannot rush an investigation. The NTSB is meticulous, and the public and Congress must be able to count on us to determine the right solutions to improve safety,” Homendy told senators earlier this year.

Shortly after the train derailment, a Senate committee advanced the bipartisan Railway Safety Act. The bill, which awaits a floor vote, would update policies at the Federal Railroad Administration and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

Senior congressional Democrats have sought support for the comprehensive rail safety legislation.

Maria Cantwell


“Following the East Palestine derailment, the committee found that from 2017 to 2021, the Class I [freight] railroads infrastructure investments were cut by 25% and employees were cut by 22% while accidents increased 14%,” Commerce Committee Chairwoman Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), the bill’s lead sponsor, said in April. “I am concerned about how we guarantee safety for the future and as a state and an economy that is very Pacific-focused, a lot more volume is Midwest products, all just throughput for our state. So we want the rail to work and work effectively and with resiliency.”

House Republican leaders also have not considered their legislative version on the floor of the chamber. Democrats led Rep. Emilia Sykes (D-Ohio), a member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, are pressing for hearings and debates on freight rail safety policy. Sykes, sponsor of the Reducing Accidents in Locomotives (RAIL) Act, has taken issue with committee GOP leaders’ inaction on her bill.

Emilia Sykes


“In the over a year since the train derailment devastated the community of East Palestine and its way of life,” she said during a recent hearing, “the majority on this [committee] has not shown the same sense of urgency and has yet to notice a hearing to discuss the state of rail safety in Ohio. What about the people of Ohio and East Palestine who have been begging us to … do something on rail safety.”

Secretary Pete Buttigieg is among the officials also championing enhancements to rail safety. Under his guidance, the Federal Railroad Administration pushed ahead with new industry guidelines. He recently renewed calls for Congress to pass rail legislation.

“Just over a year ago, in the wake of the East Palestine disaster, the bipartisan Railway Safety Act was introduced in Congress, with support from our administration. Yet the law has been stalled ever since by the railroad industry lobby and its congressional allies,” the transportation secretary argued in an editorial published in April.

“This legislation is long overdue,” Buttigieg added, “It would phase in safer tank cars, require defect detectors, expand the list of hazardous materials that qualify for stricter safety precautions and more.”


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Association of American Railroads, central to the industry’s focus on efficiency, is touting a commitment to safety.

“Freight railroads are dedicated to safeguarding the communities they serve, their employees and the products they ship. That’s why they privately invest an average of $23 billion each year in safety technologies, employee training and infrastructure and equipment maintenance and improvements,” according to AAR, “Thanks in large part to these investments, the Class I mainline accident rate per million train miles has dropped 42% between 2000 and 2023.”

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