Pennsylvania Senators are demanding federal action from the USDA and FDA given the unclear environmental impact of the Norfolk Southern derailment on agriculture.
Addressing concerns of farmers and agricultural producers in and around the derailment site in East Palestine, Senators Bob Casey (D-PA), John Fetterman (D-PA), and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) sent a letter Wednesday to Thomas Vilsack, Secretary of the Department of Agriculture (USDA), and Michael Regan, Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Planting season is fast approaching but many farmers affected by the crisis have not received clarity on the environmental impacts on their farm lands and products, according to the letter.
The Senators requested that USDA and EPA deploy resources to the region to help farmers conduct any necessary testing of their soils, plant tissue, and livestock, and to interpret the results of those tests as they pertain to the safety and marketability of their crops and products.
The letter also requests that USDA and EPA begin reviewing what authorities, in terms of disaster assistance, could be deployed to address the situation and provide assistance to local agricultural producers.
“As these farmers prepare for planting and marketing efforts, they are left wondering what impacts the derailment and chemical release will have on the safety of their products and the viability of their farms. At this point in time, neither the U.S. Department of Agriculture nor the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – or any other federal or state agencies have provided clear guidance to either our agricultural producers in the region or consumers of those products,” wrote the lawmakers.
The Senators also wrote to Norfolk Southern Corporation President and CEO Alan Shaw about the company’s legal and moral obligation to the residents of East Palestine and Darlington Township, demanding answers on how the company plans to be an active member of response and clean-up operations.
They pressed EPA on its plan to hold Norfolk Southern accountable for releasing hazardous materials into the air and water. They wrote to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to share rail safety concerns they have heard from constituents, rail experts, and railroad workers as NTSB conducts its investigation into the derailment. And finally, they worked with Congressman Chris Deluzio (D-PA) to urge Norfolk Southern to provide assistance to Pennsylvanians in Darlington Township after repeated reports that Pennsylvania residents were being turned away at the Family Assistance Center in East Palestine.
The Pennsylvania Senators also joined with Sens. Brown and J.D. Vance (R-OH) to introduce the bipartisan Railway Safety Act of 2023 which would take much needed steps to improve rail safety protocols and prevent future train disasters like the derailment that devastated East Palestine and Darlington Township.
The bill will take key steps to improve rail safety protocols, such as enhancing safety procedures for trains carrying hazardous materials, establishing requirements for wayside defect detectors, creating a permanent requirement for railroads to operate with at least two-person crews, increasing fines for wrongdoing committed by rail carriers, and more.
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