Norfolk Southern CEO apologizes, testifies his company will clean derailment site

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The head of Norfolk Southern Railway on Thursday said that following the derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, the company is “determined to make this right.”

Alan Shaw, the company’s CEO, said in testimony before a Senate panel he is “deeply sorry” for the disaster. 

“Norfolk Southern will clean the site safely, thoroughly and with urgency,” he said in his opening statement before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, adding, “You have my personal commitment. Norfolk Southern will get the job done and help East Palestine thrive.” 

Mr. Shaw said the company is working with federal, state and local agencies to clean up the site and monitor air and water.

“To date, [the monitoring] consistently indicated the air is safe to breathe and the water is safe to drink,” he said.

Mr. Shaw said the company has spent tens of millions of dollars helping the effort, describing the amount as “just a down payment.”

“We will be in the community as long as it takes,” he said.

The Feb. 3 train derailment has led to an intense round of finger-pointing over who is responsible for the mess, what could have been done to prevent it and what should be done to improve safety in the aftermath.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has faced criticism from the left and right after he waited nearly three weeks to visit the crash site.

Responding to the crash, a bipartisan group of senators, including Ohio’s J.D. Vance, a Republican, and Sherrod Brown, a Democrat, and Pennsylvania’s Bob Casey and John Fetterman, both Democrats, introduced the Railway Safety Act of 2023. They say the measure will strengthen rail safety.

In testimony Thursday, Mr. Vance told the committee the legislation is a necessary step and pushed back against free-market critics in the GOP.

“Now we are faced with a choice with this legislation and how we respond to this crisis,” Mr. Vance said. “Do we do the bidding of a massive industry that is in bed with big government or do we do the bidding of the people who elected us?”

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