Republicans Choo Choo Choose To Ignore Rail Safety
NTSB photo of derailment site

Republicans have spent the latter half of February having hissy fits about how Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg personally destroyed the town of East Palestine, Ohio, by completely ignoring the February 3 derailment of a train carrying hazardous chemicals. In mere reality, federal agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Transportation Safety Board arrived at the crash site the next morning and got to work, and Biden spoke to Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine immediately after the crash and chemical spill to offer any federal aid DeWine asked for. DeWine says yes, the federal response has been very good, too.

But that hasn't stopped the Right from insisting Biden should have immediately shown up in person so Fox News could call him senile and probably make fun of his shoes, too. The crazier segments of wingnutland are certain that Biden completely ignored East Palestine because he hates white people and won't lift a finger to help them. No credit for sending EPA Administrator Michael Regan to the site, either, because nobody had been screaming for his head, and Regan's visit got in the way of the narrative that the administration wasn't DOING ANYTHING. (As we say, it's been doing plenty.)

So no one should be surprised at all by Politico's report that "on Tuesday, some GOP lawmakers urged their colleagues not to rush out laws putting new strictures on freight rail." After all, this isn't a time for action, it's a time for blaming Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg for inaction.

Read Moar:

Perhaps We Could Improve Railroad Safety Somewhat?

Why Is Joe Biden Doing WAR To Poor East Palestine, Ohio?

Secretary Mayor Pete Not Having Any Of Marco Rubio's Sh*t

Woke NTSB Says 'Overheated Wheel Bearing' Derailed Train, Doesn't Even Call Secretary Mayor Pete Gay

As we noted last week, Buttigieg actually has put forward a package of reforms to improve rail safety; some of the measures can be enacted by the Department of Transportation, but others, like increasing fines on rail companies for safety violations or requiring modernized braking systems and tank car designs, would need to be passed by Congress. Buttigieg's proposals have been met in rightwing media with calls for him to wear more manly shoes.

A few Republicans have come out in favor of legislation to improve rail safety. Notably, Sen. JD Vance (R-Yes, really, that guy!) has joined with his Ohio Democratic colleague Sherrod Brown to introduce a bipartisan rail safety bill that would genuinely improve safety. It even has a nice prosaic title, "Railway Safety Act of 2023," instead of a cutesy acronym. The bill would require railroads to inform state officials of hazardous materials being transported through their states, to limit the total weight and length of trains, and to have a minimum of two crew members on all trains. In addition, the bill would require more rigorous inspections of tracks and train cars.

It would also set national standards for the placement of trackside sensors that can identify overheating wheel bearings and other problems. The NTSB's preliminary investigation found that such detectors notified the train crew in Ohio that a bearing was dangerously hot, and the crew started slowing the train, but the warning didn't come in time to prevent the derailment. The Associated Press explains that the Brown-Vance bill

would set nationwide requirements for installing, maintaining and placing the devices — designed to automatically detect wheel bearing and other mechanical issues — and mandate that they scan trains carrying hazardous materials every 10 miles (16 kilometers). The last two detectors the East Palestine train passed were 19 miles apart. No federal requirements exist now for wayside detectors, though the sensors are widespread in the freight rail industry. Currently, railroads are left to decide where to place those detectors and what temperatures should trigger action when an overheating bearing is detected.

The Brown-Vance bill is co-sponsored by Democratic Sens. John Fetterman and Robert Casey Jr., both of Pennsylvania — the derailment was right next to the Ohio/Pennsylvania state line — but also two Republicans, Marco Rubio of Florida and Josh Hawley of Missouri. Whether the bill will eventually get the 60 votes it would need in the Senate remains to be seen, though, and as that Politico story makes clear, a number of top Republicans in both houses see no need to do much of anything at the moment. Why not wait until we have more information?

Remember, children, Republicans also think we still need to get a better understanding of global warming before we cut back on using fossil fuels.

Some goopers, Politico says, would be fine with holding off on safety legislation until the NTSB completes its investigation of the derailment, which could take about 18 months. Hmmm ... start a railroad safety bill in September 2024? They should check to see if anything else might be on their schedules at that time.

Rep. Troy Nehls (R-Texas), who chairs the House subcommittee that oversees railroads, explained to Politico that "A lot of people have a lot of ideas right now," and pointed out that the NTSB has so far prepared a preliminary report on the derailment. "There’ll be more information coming."

One of DOT’s requests for Congress is an increase in the maximum penalties to railroads for safety violations — an idea Nehls dismissed, instead praising the industry’s safety record.

“The rail industry has a very high success rate of moving hazardous material — to the point of 99-percent-plus,” Nehls said. “Let’s not have more burdensome regulations and all this other stuff.”

Another Republican on the railroads subcommittee, Rick Crawford of Arkansas, agreed that it's absolutely necessary to do nothing about train safety until the NTSB findings are in. Better to hear from the experts "before we start speculating on what legislative fixes might be offered, if it’s necessary, and if so what would they be." He added that any legislation would be "probably a little premature at this point."

And once the experts do weigh in, they can be dismissed as out of touch bureaucrats who've never had to meet a payroll.

House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chair Rep. Sam Graves (R-Missouri) is also wary of putting any legislation on a fast track, possibly because only dirty socialists want high-speed rail. Politico notes that

Graves told Fox News Digital on Feb. 16 that he wants to “fully understand the facts involved” before considering legislation, noting that the NTSB is still investigating. Then, he said, “Congress can consider what steps may be necessary.”

We don't know yet whether Republicans can be dragged kicking and screaming to actually pass rail safety legislation this year. So far, most still seem to prefer accusing the administration of not doing enough over doing anything themselves. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell hasn't offered any thoughts on possible legislation, but he did take the chance Monday to accuse Buttigieg of seeming "more interested in pursuing press coverage for woke initiatives and climate nonsense than in attending to the basic elements of his day job."

Stupid woke climate and also the reform proposals McConnell didn't mention. Buttigieg, ever the gentleman, replied Tuesday that he'd welcome McConnell's help, since Mitch knows all about getting the job done:

"The freight rail industry has wielded a lot of power here in Washington,” he said on CNN. “I would love to see Leader McConnell join us in standing up to them."

Heck, Mitch wouldn't even have do anything woke or pledge allegiance to Mother Gaia for that.

[Politico / AP]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.


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