By STEPHEN GROVES and JOSH FUNK
WASHINGTON (AP) — Norfolk Southern’s CEO is apologizing to Congress on Thursday and pledging millions of dollars to help East Palestine, Ohio, recover from the fiery hazardous materials train derailment as senators investigate rail safety and the Biden administration’s response to the disaster.
“I am deeply sorry for the impact this derailment has had on the people of East Palestine and surrounding communities, and I am determined to make it right,” CEO Alan Shaw said in prepared remarks released ahead of the Senate Environment and Public Works panel hearing.
Shaw says the railroad will do “the right thing” with a $20 million commitment to help the community recover.
The company has announced several voluntary safety upgrades. Senators, however, have promised a pressing inquiry into the derailment, the company’s safety practices and the emergency response to the toppling of 38 railcars, including 11 carrying hazardous materials. Federal regulators have also said Norfolk Southern must do more to improve safety.
No one was injured in the crash, but state and local officials decided to release and burn toxic vinyl chloride from five tanker cars, prompting the evacuation of half of the roughly 5,000 residents of East Palestine. Scenes of billowing smoke above the village, alongside outcry from residents that they are still suffering from illnesses, have turned high-level attention to railroad safety and how dangerous materials are transported.
Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., the chair of the committee opened the hearing by calling it an “an opportunity to put ourselves in the shoes of those impacted by this disaster, examine the immediate response and ensure long-term accountability for the cleanup efforts.”