After negotiations, the Railway Safety Act has been moved to the Senate floor. The Railway Safety Act of 2023 was introduced following the train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio.
The legislation includes provisions to support firefighters who respond to disasters like the East Palestine derailment. It also reforms the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Hazardous Materials Emergency Preparedness (HMEP) programs to ensure fire departments can purchase personal protective gear and creates a new program to make fire departments whole after responding to a derailment.
The Federal Railroad Administration requires trains carrying large amounts of flammable liquids (like crude oil) to comply with speed restrictions in urban areas, improve braking systems to make trains stop faster, conduct a route risk analysis to ensure railroads take the safest route and take steps to mitigate safety and security risks and ensure railroads have a hazardous materials (hazmat) spill response plan in the event of a derailment.
The bill expands the types of chemicals that trigger these specific safety requirements so that trains carrying vinyl chloride and other explosives and toxic materials, including flammable gas, poisonous gas and nuclear material, are subject to the same safety requirements as flammable liquid trains.
The bill requires that railroads notify states about the types and frequency of trains carrying hazmat transported through the state boundaries. Additionally, the bill requires DOT to improve railroads’ existing hazmat response plans.