The U-S Senate Commerce Committee has approved a rail-safety bill introduced after a freight train derailment in Ohio, but its fate remains uncertain due to significant GOP opposition.
Only two of the Republicans on the panel voted for it.
The bill would increase inspections of trains carrying hazardous materials, require the use of technology to detect track defects, and sharply raise penalties on railroad companies for crashes.
Senator Ted Cruz of Texas said the bill would give too much power to the Biden administration to restrict rail shipments of coal, oil and other fossil fuels that Cruz said “the radical green movement hates.”
Cruz said the bill is unlikely to get the 60 votes it probably would need to pass on the Senate floor, or to win passage in the GOP-controlled House, unless changes are made to restrict the administration’s rulemaking power over railroads.
The bill has been the subject of bipartisan negotiations that resulted in changes to the original version introduced by Democrat Sherrod Brown of Ohio.
Ian Jefferies, president of the Association of American Railroads, says they’ve improved the bill, but that “challenges remain with certain provisions,” including a requirement for at least two crew members on each train.
The committee action came one day after Norfolk Southern renewed a promise to create a fund for residents near the site of the Ohio wreck to cover any decline in home values since the February derailment.
CEO Alan Shaw wrote the committee that the railroad expects to compensate homeowners within about 5 miles of the crash if they sell their homes for less than the property was appraised before the derailment with payments starting within a year.