Facing mounting scrutiny, Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw will face lawmakers Thursday in his first appearance on Capitol Hill Thursday since the Feb. 3 train derailment that sparked a toxic chemical spill and the evacuation in East Palestine, Ohio.
The CEO of the Norfolk Southern Railway will be in the dock at a Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee hearing, as senators question him about cleanup efforts and a series of recent accidents involving the railway company.
Shaw plans to tell lawmakers that he is «deeply sorry» for the impact the Ohio train derailment has had on the people of East Palestine and neighboring communities and that he is «determined to make it right,» according to his written testimony obtained by NBC. . News.
“We will clean the site safely, thoroughly and urgently. We are making progress every day,” Shaw will tell the members.
This week, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said it would launch a special investigation into the Norfolk Southern Railway’s organization and safety culture. Since December 2021, the NTSB said it had launched investigation teams for five major accidents involving Norfolk Southern, including Saturday when a freight train derailed near Springfield, Ohio, and Tuesday when a Norfolk Southern employee was killed during a collision.
The company announced a six point plan on Monday to begin addressing the security issues.
“While accidents do happen, Ohioans and Pennsylvanians and the American people deserve answers, straight answers and they deserve accountability,” EPW President Tom Carper, D-Del., said in a conference call with reporters Wednesday.
“This is not a Republican or a Democrat issue. It’s about getting answers and it’s about restoring trust.»
Shaw, who has been president and CEO of Norfolk Southern since May 2022, will appear alongside Debra Shore, Regional Administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency; Anne Vogel, director of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency; and local officials who can speak about the environmental impact of the derailment in the community.
He audience kicked off at 10 am ET with an initial panel of lawmakers: Ohio’s two senators, Democrat Sherrod Brown and Republican JD Vance, as well as Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., will testify before Shaw speaks.
Residents in eastern Palestine have said they are fearful and anxious about potential exposure to dangerous chemicals following the derailment there, with some avoiding drinking water, despite assurances from federal officials that air and water They’re safe.
The EPA has ordered Norfolk Southern to clean up any soil and water contamination and pay for it.
Shaw will detail Thursday how the company is working with the EPA on a long-term phase-out plan that will guide testing on water, air and soil quality. And it will emphasize the importance of providing financial assistance to affected residents, noting that the company has «committed to repayments and investments of more than $20 million in total,» helping 4,200 families and first responders in eastern Palestine.
“Financial assistance can’t change what happened, but it is an important part of doing the right thing,” Shaw will say in his statement. “I want to be clear: this financial assistance is just a down payment. … We will continue to invest in East Palestine for as long as it takes to help the community recover and prosper.”
As of Monday, at least 18 lawsuits had been filed against the company.
The Biden administration will also face criticism at Thursday’s hearing. West Virginia Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, the top Republican on the panel, took aim at the EPA during Wednesday’s call with Carper and reporters.
“Personally, I think the EPA failed. … There was confusion, there was delayed data, and a feeling that nobody really cared. So if you’re thinking about someone in your home, evacuate, come back, is your water safe, is the air clean? Capito said.
“So let’s ask, why did it take the EPA administrator three weeks before he actually drank the water? He was telling everyone that he was safe. Why did it take a month to set up a response center?»