Norfolk Southern President and CEO Alan Shaw is to apologize before Congress Thursday for the Feb. 3 East Palestine, Ohio, train derailment.
"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," Shaw will say before the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, according to a copy of his prepared remarks released beforehand.
"We will clean the site safely, thoroughly, and with urgency. We are making progress every day. Working now under the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's recent Unilateral Administrative Order, we have submitted a long-term removal plan that will guide our comprehensive testing program for the community's water, air, and soil," he's to say. "That testing is guided by science, and we will continue to share the results transparently. The Ohio and U.S. Environmental Protection Agencies, as well as other local agencies, are continually monitoring the air and water quality in East Palestine and report that both the air and water are safe."
Shaw said to consider the financial assistance from the railroad operator so far as just a "down payment."
"Financial assistance cannot change what happened, but it is an important part of doing the right thing. To date, we have committed to reimbursements and investments of more than $20 million in total, including by helping more than 4,200 families through our Family Assistance Center located in East Palestine," he will say. "Supporting first responders has been a particular area of focus, and our contributions include more than $3 million to assist the East Palestine Fire Department. I would like to express again my profound admiration for the first responders from Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia who responded to the derailment."
"I want to be clear: this financial assistance is just a down payment," the statement says. "I've met with community leaders, business owners, school officials, clergy, and others to begin to identify ways we can invest in the future prosperity of East Palestine and support the long-term needs of its people. We will continue to invest in East Palestine for as long as it takes to help the community recover and thrive.
Shaw will testify that Norfolk Southern already launched "a series of immediate steps to enhance safety" based the National Transportation Safety Board's preliminary report. "We look forward to cooperating with the NTSB as it continues its investigation into the root cause of the accident as well as its wider investigation," he says.
NTSB and the Federal Railroad Administration both announced investigations this week into Norfolk Southern's safety culture. The NTSB said it will look into five significant accidents since December 2021.
The committee will also hear from Ohio and Pennsylvania senators — Republican JD Vance and Democrats Sherrod Brown and Bob Casey — who are pushing new safety regulations called the Railway Safety Act of 2023. Other witnesses are U.S. EPA Regional Administrator Debra Shore, Ohio EPA Director Anne Vogel, Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission Executive Director and Chief Engineer Richard Harrison, and Beaver County Department of Emergency Services Director and Chief of Hazardous Materials Response Eric Brewer.
"I want to hear what did they do wrong, what mistakes did they make," Committee Chairman Sen. Tom Carper said. "There’s been a number of criticisms of what they did, and to have him respond to those criticisms on the record."
Carper joined the top Republican on the committee, Sen. Shelley Capito of West Virginia, in a call with reporters on Wednesday to emphasize they would work in bipartisan fashion "to deliver accountability to the communities and folks who have been impacted."
Noting that a train had derailed in her home state of West Virginia on Wednesday, Capito cast the hearing as the Senate's first step among several on railway safety and emergency response. The new safety regulations would likely need to be considered in the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.