COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Norfolk Southern’s CEO Alan Shaw was at the Ohio Statehouse Tuesday morning, testifying to the Senate Select Committee on Rail Safety about the East Palestine train derailment more than two months after it happened.
“It sounds like they’re doing many of the things we hoped they would do,” Senator Bill Reineke (R-Tiffin) said.
“We will continue to invest in the future of Ohio, just as we have always done,” Shaw said. “Norfolk Southern is here for the long haul.”
Shaw said he has been in East Palestine, talking with community members, and said they have consistently expressed three main concerns.
“We’re working with experts and relative stakeholders on establishing long-term funds that would address just those issues: healthcare, water monitoring and property values,” Shaw said. “The other way we can help property value is by investing in the community.”
Shaw said while financial assistance can’t change what happened, he believes it is part of doing the right thing.
“We are investing in the communities we serve,” he said. “We invested over $210 million in the state of Ohio alone. We want to be good corporate citizens because our employees live in those communities as well. We have 13 employees who live in East Palestine.”
As far as clean-up, he said the company is working closely with the Ohio EPA and U.S. EPA and have made a lot of progress.
“Every day, we’ve got 300 Norfolk Southern employees or contractor working on the environmental remediation,” Shaw said. “They’re working on community assistance and working on helping East Palestine thrive.”
Shaw said each year, Norfolk Southern invests $1 billion in safety, and just more than two weeks ago, Gov. Mike DeWine signed the state’s transportation budget, which takes effect on July 1, and also includes rail safety provisions.
One of those provisions creates the requirement for two-person crews on trains. Similar legislation is being worked on at the federal level, but Shaw said that may not be the solution.
“We’re data-driven and we’re going to follow the science,” Shaw said. “At this point, I have not seen any data to provide a direct link between crew size and derailments.”
“I think we need to evaluate some of the restrictions,” Reineke said. “Everybody jumps to the conclusions, and we want safety first in mind but want to make sure they can continue to operate properly because they bring so much of our commerce through the state.”
The transportation budget also includes provisions to improve wayside detector effectiveness. Shaw said they’re already planning on increasing their number of detectors by 25%.