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Schumer pushes railroad regulation bill following Ohio derailment

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is backing a bipartisan proposal to address rail safety.
Vaughn Golden
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) is backing a bipartisan proposal to address rail safety.

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) is showing his support for a bipartisan bill meant to address rail safety.

A number of senators, Republicans and Democrats have gotten behind the Railway Safety Act of 2023 since it was announced last week, including Schumer.

"I am formally announcing my support for the new bipartisan Railway Safety Act,” Schumer reiterated, flanked by local officials in Elmira Monday.

The legislation includes several measures meant to tighten regulations on commercial railway operators that transport hazardous materials.

They include requiring trains to have two-person crews, and mandating that rail companies notify local officials if a derailment occurs.

Some critics of the bill say it should specifically define how much hazardous waste a train is carrying to be considered a hazard train. Those trains are subject to lower speed limits.

"We certainly have to look at the definition of hazard trains because now you need a certain number of cars,” Schumer said. “The one in Ohio was dangerous, but had fewer cars, so that's something we should have to look at."

The current legislation leaves the specifics for defining hazard trains up to the Department of Transportation.

Schumer said he thinks the onus for implementing railway safety falls more on legislative fixes, rather than action by the Department of Transportation.

"They need legislation," Schumer said. "There were some regulations that were repealed. They should be put back, but we also want new legislation."

Vaughn Golden has been reporting across New York since 2016. Working as a freelancer while studying journalism and economics at Ithaca College, Vaughn has reported for a number of outlets including the Albany Times Union, New York Post, and NPR among others. Prior to coming to WSKG full-time, Vaughn was a reporter for the Watertown Daily Times. Vaughn now covers government and politics for WSKG.