In March of this year, a BNSF train jumped the tracks in Skagit County spilling more than 3 thousand gallons of diesel.
In February, 38 Norfolk Southern cars derailed in East Palestine, Ohio spilling hazardous chemicals into local waterways. More than 2 thousand people had to be evacuated as crews burned off some of the chemicals to head off an explosion.
On Wednesday, Democratic Senator Maria Cantwell from Washington state led an executive session on the proposed Railway Safety Act of 2023.
It would require technology to detect when a train malfunction is about to happen.
“This legislation requires for the first-time railroads to use these defect detectors with more frequency and makes it not just voluntary,” said Senator Cantwell during the hearing in Washington D.C.
According to Federal data, there were 35 train derailments in our state last year.
The proposed legislation would expand the types of hazardous materials that would trigger increased safety regulations like speed restrictions, better braking, and route risk analysis. It would also require stronger emergency response plans to prepare for railroad disasters.
"The people of East Palestine are going to deal with costs of what Norfolk Southern did for the next generation. The mental health costs, the physical health costs, the economic damage, the loss of home and property values,” said Republican Senator J.D. Vance of Ohio.
While there is bipartisan support for passing stronger railroad rules, right now an agreement that could become law has not been hammered out.
“I think this bill as written, it’s going to pass this committee, but I don’t believe as written it’s going to get 60 votes in the senate,” said Republican Senator Ted Cruz from Texas.
Norfolk Southern has apologized for the derailment in East Palestine and promises to pay for the cleanup.
Some members of congress, both Democrats and Republicans believe it will take a new law to keep it from happening again.