The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release
Contact: Email:,info(at)fwwatch(dot)org,Seth Gladstone -,

Amid Hollow Pledges from Rail Industry, Sec. of Transportation Buttigieg Must Act Now to Restore Obama-Era Safety Measures for Toxic Rail Cargo

Today a hearing of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee was held to consider Protecting Public Health and the Environment in the Wake of the Norfolk Southern Train Derailment and Chemical Release in East Palestine, Ohio. At the hearing, officials from Norfolk Southern Railroad, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and state and local agencies were questioned.

In response, Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter issued the following statement:

“After years spent pushing to roll back the very sorts of safety regulations that would have prevented an accident like this, Alan Shaw’s apology today rings hollow. If Norfolk Southern had real concern for the safety of the countless communities like East Palestine through which their trains run, they would be calling for more safety measures for the industry. Instead they offer voluntary steps that can easily be undone, prioritizing profit margins over people.

“Our team has been on the ground since the burn-off, meeting and organizing residents, partnering with allied organizations to bring needed resources, and coordinating proper testing for families that have been turned away by the very regulatory agencies created to protect them. This should be a stark reminder that our government agencies are far from prepared to respond to these accidents in spite of how often they occur.

“While the serious health impacts of the derailment in East Palestine have only just begun to emerge, we know that toxic spills like these can be devastating to communities and families for decades. Secretary Buttigieg and this administration must act immediately to reduce the risks of these horrific derailments by first reestablishing the common-sense rail freight safety standards implemented by President Obama and unconscionably rolled back by Trump.

“All trains carrying dangerous toxic chemicals should be classified as ‘high-hazard flammable trains,’ which would require more stringent safety requirements and notice to state and local officials of their contents. These are actions that Secretary Buttigieg and the administration can and must make immediately.”

Food & Water Watch mobilizes regular people to build political power to move bold and uncompromised solutions to the most pressing food, water, and climate problems of our time. We work to protect people's health, communities, and democracy from the growing destructive power of the most powerful economic interests.

(202) 683-2500