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U.S. lawmakers introduce bills addressing derailment disaster

Two new bills could crack down on railroads, proposing new regulations designed to prevent future disasters.

PENNSYLVANIA, USA — It was a fiery wake-up call.

"I think the East Palestine train derailment and explosion is the poster child on showing us the steps we could take to avoid these kinds of accidents," said David Masur, PennEnvironment executive director.

Masur said the toxic Feb. 3 train derailment exposed the holes in railroad regulations. 

"We have to make sure that there's better inspections, that there's better enforcement," Masur said. "We have to make sure that we have properly staffed up our nation's freight and rail system."

The Railroad Safety Act of 2023 would do just that. 

The bipartisan bill introduced by Pennsylvania U.S. Senators Casey and Fetterman, among others, would add new safety measures, requiring trained two-person crews on every train carrying hazardous materials. 

It would also require regular inspections of wheel bearings, hoping to detect weak points in the aging infrastructure.

"These brakes systems were essentially invented in the 1880s and yet here we are still using them today and we've added more and more cars to the trains," Masur.

Pennsylvania Congressman Chris Deluzio introduced the DE-RAIL Act, a bill Masur helped craft. 

It would require railroads to give local officials a report on any toxic chemicals spilled during a derailment, within 24 hours of the incident. 

The bill would lower the threshold for a train to be considered a "high hazard flammable train." 

Masur said it would also get rid of a dangerous loophole.

"If trains are carrying different types of cargo, some that are hazardous, some that are not, they then don't have to be categorized as hazardous," he said.

Masur believes the nation's railroad infrastructure needs work and that the country should consider whether or not these toxic chemicals are necessary in the first place.

"We put a man on the moon 60 years ago," Masur said. "If we can do that, we can find safer products in the marketplace that don't put traveling train bombs rumbling through our communities."

The time for talk is over, Masur said, now, federal lawmakers must act.

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