WASHINGTON, DC – Pennsylvania U.S. Senators Bob Casey and John Fetterman today sent a letter to Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw regarding the company’s failure to join the Federal Railroad Administration’s Confidential Close Call Reporting System (C3RS). C3RS allows employees to report near-misses or close calls on railroads when they see them and ensures that the employees cannot be disciplined for reporting these events. Norfolk Southern has not yet joined this program despite saying they would shortly after the derailment affecting East Palestine and Darlington Township.
Last week, the New York Times published a story detailing Norfolk Southern’s hesitations about joining the program, specifically the company’s resistance to the provision that protects employees against retribution for reporting near-misses.
“C3RS is a promising program with real potential to improve rail safety, protect employees, and reduce incidents if adopted by a larger swath of the rail industry,” wrote the Senators. “C3RS acts as one unified database for reporting and, with NASA as an independent third-party administrator, ensures confidentiality and protects against retribution against employees who make reports. Ensuring that employees are not disciplined for reporting near-misses is key to making the program effective, as employees are more likely to report these incidents when they have a guarantee of anonymity and safety from retribution.”
“…After the East Palestine derailment, Norfolk Southern announced on March 2 that it would join the C3RS report system. In the announcement, you stated that the move ‘marks another step [Norfolk Southern is] taking to further [your] commitment to safety.’ However, since your initial announcement, you have not followed through on this pledge. We believe that fully participating in C3RS would be a positive step for Norfolk Southern in committing itself to a culture of safety,” the Senators continued.
Also last week, the Federal Railroad Administration released a new report on the disaster that recommended Norfolk Southern join the program.
The new letter is just one measure in a series of actions that Sens. Casey and Fetterman have taken to push for accountability from Norfolk Southern and stand up for local residents affected by the toxic derailment.
Earlier this year, Sen. Fetterman held a roundtable with local farmers in Darlington Township affected by the derailment, while Sen. Casey visited Darlington Township to push for rail safety bills and hear from residents.
Previously, Sens. Casey and Fetterman wrote to Shaw about the company’s legal and moral obligation to the residents of East Palestine and Darlington Township, demanding answers on how the company plans to be an active member of response and clean-up operations. They pressed the Environmental Protection Agency on its plan to hold Norfolk Southern accountable for releasing hazardous materials into the air and water. They wrote to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to share rail safety concerns they have heard from constituents, rail experts, and railroad workers as NTSB conducts its investigation into the derailment. And finally, they worked with Congressman Chris Deluzio (D-PA) to urge Norfolk Southern to provide assistance to Pennsylvanians in Darlington Township after repeated reports that Pennsylvania residents were being turned away at the Family Assistance Center in East Palestine.
The Pennsylvania Senators also joined with Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and J.D. Vance (R-OH) to introduce the bipartisan Railway Safety Act of 2023 which would take much needed steps to improve rail safety protocols and prevent future train disasters like the derailment that devastated East Palestine and Darlington Township. The bill will take key steps to improve rail safety protocols, such as enhancing safety procedures for trains carrying hazardous materials, establishing requirements for wayside defect detectors, creating a permanent requirement for railroads to operate with at least two-person crews, increasing fines for wrongdoing committed by rail carriers, and more.