(NewsNation) — The Federal Railroad Administration will be opening an investigation into the safety practices of freight railroads and the dangers faced by railroad workers.
In a speech on the Senate floor, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., spoke about the investigation into Class I freight railroads. The announcement comes after lawmakers focused attention on rail safety in response to a derailment in East Palestine, Ohio.
The derailment of the Norfolk Southern train and the following controlled explosion of hazardous chemicals being transported by tanker cars led many lawmakers to call for reform. Officials in East Palestine were unaware the train passing through their area was hauling hazardous materials and first responders lacked information on how to safely respond to the crash.
Residents of East Palestine also reported health problems following the crash, many of which they said were unexplained by doctors. Families in the area have called on Norfolk Southern to make things right as property values have dropped and some are still afraid to return to the area.
“In the last five years alone, there have been over 26,500 accidents and incidents, almost 13,000 injuries, and over 2,750 fatalities attributed to rail incidents,” Schumer said in his speech. “But instead of prioritizing safety, the rail industry has cut over 30,000 employees from the workforce — roughly 20%.”
Schumer accused rail companies of prioritizing stock buybacks and lobbying efforts to loosen regulation instead of putting money toward safety measures that would protect workers and communities.
Norfolk Southern’s CEO has refused to back a rail safety bill introduced in the aftermath of the crash.