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What East Palestine can tell us about the rail industry

2023-03-07

On the evening of February 3, 2023, a Norfolk Southern train carrying toxic chemicals derailed outside of East Palestine, Ohio. The environmental impact was almost immediate: Residents were forced to evacuate while authorities carried out a controlled release of the hazardous chemical vinyl chloride. The aftermath also raises questions about freight rail policy and regulation. Host Jonquilyn Hill talks with Joanna Marsh of FreightWaves and Ian Duncan of the Washington Post about what East Palestine tells us about the rail industry’s past and future. 

References:

Ohio senators introduce rail safety bill after fiery crash

5 questions you might ask about freight train accidents 

Yes, the Ohio train wreck is an environmental disaster. No, it's not Chernobyl. 

The East Palestine, Ohio, train wreck didn't have to be this bad 

Credits:

Jonquilyn Hill, host

Sofi LaLonde, producer

Cristian Ayala, engineer

A.M. Hall, editorial director of talk podcasts

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
I am arcadius trotzky and a host of newport cost from the economist gold next year in moscow. For many russians, let me up full scale. Innovation of Ukraine also felt like an attack on their own country's future. Hundreds of thousands flat I've been talking to this new exit. Because their stories help bring to life the mystery of why this senseless war began and how it might end. Let's see in moscow from the economists is out now, and your podcasting join me today and start listening. This episode is brought to you by progressive. Are you thinking more about how to take up your budget? These days, drivers who saved by switching to progressive, save over seven hundred dollars on average and customers can qualify for an average of six discounts when they sign up a little off your rate. Month goes a long way get a quote. Today: a progressive dotcom, progressive
the insurance company in affiliates national annual average insurance savings by new customer service who saved with progressive between june twenty twenty on may twenty. Twenty one potential savings will very discounts very and are not available in all states and situations. I'm jungle in hell and today on the weeds, we're getting into the policies that are supposed to keep our trains. on track. My name is jennifer harmony and I'm the chair of the national transportation safety born. I can tell you this much. This was one hundred percent preventable. By now you ve likely heard about east palace.
Jeanne ohio, my name's wayne mabel. I grew up and dark and town shipments, raina and re married my wife and move these palestine in thirty one years ago, so that in these past him for thirty one years, my colleague Benjy Jones, a senior environmental reporter here at box, recently drove threes palestine and talk to residence about their experiences. In the wake of last month in the roman, that's where he met wayne and his wife gale. I was sitting in my lazy boy. When I heard the dogs responded, and so do I looked out the windows, and we seen the far from here. We can see the fire from here very clear I mean we thought all of downtown was on fire until people started posting on facebook. I thought market street was on fire. It was taller than any building we have in town while and then all all day saturday we kept watching. You know we could see the smoke. We could see that the the flame
a lot of the conversation has been about the environment and the health impacts on residence, and that makes sense. People are scared about the water, their drinking and the air that their breathing railroads are a fixture, their part of our landscape. There are about one hundred and forty thousand miles of track in the united states and I think it safe to say most people, don't think of the trains running through art towns and cities. All that often that was the case in east palestine, over resistant means of transportation for moving goods from one point to the other I mean the trains very fifteen amendments on a regular basis. So it's just portable.
After. Why you don't hear them? We should hear them now, as we are talking about this story here at the weeds, we kept wondering how this happened in the first place and if there's any policy to prevent it from happening again, but in order to understand the regulatory landscape, we first need to know how the modern real industry functions, and for that I knew just who took My name is Joanna marsh. I'm a senior staff reporter at freight waves, witches and my muse publication on freight transportation, and I come The? U s and canadian faint railroads for them. Ok Joanna can you talk is through what happened on February third and east palestine, ohio.
just before nine p m local time there was a norfolk southern train that was running nearby, the town of ease palestine, ohio, which is located near the boy of ohio pennsylvania as it ran by the town, The trained around and safety investigators think that a possible cause of that train derailment could be it overheated, we'll bearings In other words, you know the wheels were running on the real carpet. The bearing got real really really hot, to the point that the the wheels kind of fell off the track and that caused multiple cars to derail? I figured, but I believe, like maybe like thirty eight cars and some of those cars were tank cars that were carrying chemical substances in hazardous materials, so there was concern that some of the hazardous materials protect really vital chloride, which is used in the production of plastics. There were chemical reactions occurring inside the tent
and there is concern that the tanker would explode and than just get really ugly from her a few days, It er on Monday, norfolk southern decided to conduct controlled release of the vital chloride as a result. You saw this really big black gray cloud over the skies, also because of the chemicals involved in the train derailment. There was concern and there is still concern. among the surrounding communities, including pennsylvania, about how air quality might be affected. how water quality might be affected. I want to talk about the modern rail industry, who are the big players when it comes to trains now? Is it your same because
a lot of people to realise their actual a lot of railroad companies operating in the united states. According to this, railroad administration. There are over eight hundred freight and passenger railroad. So, of course, that includes You know your ear, subways in your computer rails and aunt track, but you'd take that apart. You still have eaten hundreds railroad companies and there are three economic classes of railroads that kind of divide them up by like how much money the railroad companies make, and so you have your smallest companies who serve like the mom and pop tout. You know they're like mama pop operations, and so they serve like the small towns like the the few companies are are where's that might be there. You know who want to transport. There are no crushed stone somewhere. You know, hundreds of, away or farmers who want to sell
soybeans to asia or something, and then you have a slightly larger size, which means they make more money and a generate more revenue, and those include, of course, small railroads that might cover a wider territory or they might include companies who have several of these smaller rail assets throughout the country or are in a certain region. These two kinds of railroads are called a short line railroads. The last category consist of the biggest realm and they are the ones who have thousands of miles of track, who millions of dollars and who spend billions of dollars and they're called the class one railroads the class one railroads. There are seven of them right now in the united states and canada? Two of them actually are in canada, although they both have operations in the? U s:
and then the other five are headquarters in the: u s and within that you have to that serve the eastern. U s see a sex norfolk southern you have to that, serve the western? U s being surf in unit pacific and then you can? I have one that that serves the central like MID west region wishes Kansas city, southern the biggest railroads class. One regards To get a lot of scrutiny as well because they are so visible, all of them, except the inessa, are publicly traded, so you could be invested any of those companies and their stock. I know, typically, when I think of trains, I think of amtrak now, I think of getting on the train in D c.
And taking it up to philly are taking it up to new york are boston, but it seems like that's just sort of a slice of you know: trains in the united states. There's there's this freight component in norfolk. Southern is a freight train company, but how much stuff is you know getting from place to place via railroad the bulk of freight goods are transported by truck, but real handles a sizeable portion of it as well, so a lot of what real handles hours, bulk commodities and things that you might not necessarily need right away. So things like call our grain or energy products, she's in half an hour or crude oil other commodities that the railways carry include automotive pie.
It's in vehicles and as you're, seeing with automotive parts and vehicles, because those components kind of go back and forth between the us and canada and mexico. So well. You know your car might have parts that are produced in canada and us and and is actually like put together in mexico and and then kind of go back into the. U s via train. There are also the railcar called intermodal or intermodal cars or intermodal containers. I guess, and those are ones that carry your your import goods, things that might come from the ports and inland. Can you put this particular east, Palestine's derailment, In context, how often do trains derail? Is this an earlier, or is this just a very prominent example of something that happens quite a bit: train derailments among the classroom, railroads I should have been quite a bit, I'm looking for a railroad administration data so between
january in november twenty twenty two there were eight hundred eighteen trained arraignments reported to offer a way out of like one thousand forty nine total and that number is actually slightly lower. But then twenty twenty and twenty twenty one numbers which are like hovering around like eight seventy and then, if you kind of look back over ten years, you know you actually see that derailments have kind of, up and down, but kind of have been trending lower in the last three years eyes from the high This number, I think, since twenty thirteen seems to be when thousands of new, too and in twenty fifteen, it's interesting. What happened is passed as well, because it's not an unusual cause us to have overheated bearings the
Ro ro administration, I'm issued a safety advisory, telling the railroads to look at their safety programmes regarding safety in operational programmes. Regarding I'm hot box detectors now hop ox detectors are what the colleague wayside detectors and we said, detectors arduous these devices that our next to attract and their color monitored the safety conditions at the train. While the train passes through us, you have a train going through
and then, though, though, the hot box attacked our keener, engages the temperature of the bearings and of the wheels on the rail cartagena just to make sure everything is ok and they put out the safety advisory because one of the potential causes of the norfolk set in train derailment I might be, and over heated bearing. And so. If you look at the preliminary investigation report that the national transportation safety board put out, there is discussion about like how the norfolk southern hot box detectors reported inv the temperature of the bearings increasing along three detectors, set distances from the derailment site and even
though those detectors noticed that the temperature was was rising. Those temperature increases and the actual temperatures themselves. They didn't with a threshold levels fought for stopping the terrain and its has resigned because each railroad has different russia levels for four when to stop a train? Yeah? Sorry that another? If it's not standardized across oliver, it's it's not standardized, I'm not sure how to the extent of how much of that has been discussed, I will say, generally speaking, bed, there are highly technical committee outside of the federal railroad administration, that kind of talk about you know ways I detectors. And you know when and how far they should be. But yeah. I don't know how much of it. How much of the discussion has been around like? Shall we should we standardize these these thresholds, although that might of course,
be a topic on going forward, what constitutes a derailment because it sounds like they're here winning more often than a lot of us, realize I think if every derailment was like east palestine, we would hear about them a lot more. But it sounds like these go under the radar. Quite a bit well. I think, part of the reason why you don't hear about derailments as much is because they they might be occurring in places where there's just you know, frankly, aren't very many people around. So the you know you think they're. I think they're, like one hundred forty thousand miles of railroad track in the united states, and so you have like large
swaths of deer, just the railroad tracks in the middle of life in the basket, planes or something so that may be part of it and part of it too, might be that the derailment isn't as flashy like it might have resulted in in multiple cars derailing or what derailed didn't cause take cars to heat up their chemicals and cause it explosion. So as far why trend paramus occur There are various reasons you no one could be how the track has mainly been maintained. So you have people in terms of the unionized workers,
and I'm technology and joseph like automatic, track inspection. Another reason why derailments may occur could be mechanical issues with the real cars and I think that's actually an interesting thing to to bring looking at this whole train derailment, because, even though this happened on northwicks southerners track and it was a norfolk, southern train and bad bayside protectors of a hot box and factors are owned and operated by norfolk. Southern the rail cars themselves are actually not by norfolk, southern ah norfolk. Southern, like you, inspects the train to make sure you know everything looks ok, but in terms of whose ashley liable for the real car is kind of to be determined, most real cars owned by either railcar leasing companies such as they trinity industries or a j t x, and the other
kind of real car odor are actually companies are, or are shippers as as as people call them, so they can be like you're you're, chemical manufacturers or europe. plastics producer is warrior. Grain producers are your call company is either so that they can be the ones who actually on the rail that's so interesting because I think of just owning trains, I think of the trains as the cars, and that is not the case. I mean there was a point in time where the railroads dead on the rail cars, as that is that they don't own money. I mean they still do on some real cars, but that transition for various reasons to shippers owning the real cars. so, how big or how powerful is the rail industry you mentioned. Those union
used workers before- and I know when there was talk of a potential strike in people, said like that, could cost two billion dollars a day? How? How big is this industry? It is pretty significant because No, I mean, even though faint rail isn't the dominant transportation mode, it still a very important transportation maud that figure of two billion was voted around because you're, not just talking about the railroads you're. Talking about all that goods that are shipped virile again, so you have the grain. You have your call. You have your sneakers from around the world.
With all these goods that their their transport and their ability to to get to power plants or to to target might be affected if there was a strike or if there's like a under something disruption in the rails Joanna marsh. Thank you so much for joining us on the weeds. Thank you for having me. I really appreciate it. Joanna marsh is a reporter for freight waves. So those are the basics of the railroad industry in america up next, the regulations guiding them. The bruno ran the mob in springfield Massachusetts. Us growing up italian and you want to be a criminal bruno was the guy that we looked up to last till he was gunned down in
two thousand and three bel bruno just took about eight to the body at the italian club on winthrop street. I'm like oh Jesus, Bruno's murder was a mystery, but also an opportunity. It was law enforcement's best shot at taking down the springfield mafia once and for all on ellie holding host of up against the mob, the springfield crew? As a federal prosecutor, top down over one hundred mobsters, but nothing was as wild as what went down in springfield called nine one. One I've been shot to solve the case. We'd have to convince made men to break their code of silence. You can't put your hands on them or you get killed and, as the dominoes started to fall, all of us just looked at each other, like this case, is blowing up up against the mob this.
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Where did earth's water come from? How did life actually start, and I dunno just what is life origins from unexplainable starting march? First follow unexplainable for new episodes every wednesday we're back. This is the weeds and we're talking about trains today I call if someone else to get to the regulatory aspect, I mean Duncan unarmoured transportation reports for the washington post. Historically, what has railroad regulation looked like in this case, the regulation of railroads. It goes back to the nineteenth century because there are still one of the oldest big industries in the country. There was a hall system. Of regulation that came in towards the end of the nineteenth century and then number
an error. Adsense dying in the eighties has been about deregulation, and so that we get it today where there is federal oversight, but its reason be limited and love is dead. With safety measures, so you mention that limited ed federal oversight. Let's talk about the current regulatory landscape. What role does the federal government have when it comes to the railroads right now? So there is a part of the? U s: department of transportation: that's could the federal railroad administration and they have the power to set safety was for the railroads. It's a little bit like what you might be more familiar with the f, a a for planes, but they're not running make the air traffic control system in the same way said: they're very much a regular
So they do do some hands on stuff. They do some inspections, and but it's mostly about setting safety rules, it seems safety is the major aspect of regulation when it comes, the trains and railroads are there? Are there any other aspects of regulation of a body? Could the surface transportation board, which has some commercial oversight, ams, I think the relationships between railroads and their customers- and there was some kind of attention on that last year, because there was a lot attention about the service that railroads would provide into their their customers. But it's it's fairly light touch regulation there. Why is it such a light touch wide? Why does the federal government have such little oversight, we ve had a reproach to regulating transportation in this country. Maybe going back to that, the seven nice is it you see much more tightly controlled and so in an
creation and in railways you seen the irregular in the idea being that with the members they were struggling financed, stay and say you had an attempt, sticking to free them up and help them ten, two more viable businesses, and if you took the railroads I would say this has been a period of real growth and finance. The success. Now that's good for the country because they provide in this vital services to get goods where they need to get so. As of now. What are some of the regulation or rules that do exist I'm thinking as far as safety maintenance workers. What are some of the things we see in place so that rules around inspection of tracks and standards for maintaining traps,
equipment on roads there. I think the big thing that's kind of coming to focus in the last decade or so, and certainly in the last few weeks, has been around how their special kind of train that could a high hazardous found will train is regulated. They can have come to be seen as particularly dangerous. Full of chemicals that are potentially can burner explode, and so there you have a system of rules, speed limits. Breaking standards can be much more detailed regulation about what the railways are required to do. Can you talk a little bit about the rule of law being when it comes to railroads? Railroad regulation is just the way things are working right now, it's a pretty consolidated industry, so that gives them a reasonable amount of power in washington. They have an association that also represents them, and so what we
seen in this period, where there's been interest in trying to set nice safety standards. Is that the rovers will often lobby against that that the argument is that it's a period of technological change in the industry and so that, if you write rules, now. They might be outdated by the time that they put in place and set. The abundant illustration made some efforts to tie in the wars and beyond, we saw in the trump administration was they were interested in the irregular show me across the board and especially when it came to transportation they let fortune is toward things back the guy you and the federal man wrote administration during the tramp administration was had, but as a railroad executive, then he gave speeches. they echoing the line of the industry, and so they found that they were able to get some moors rode back. Other things that obama administration and they may be thought they would believing for a future
Hillary Clinton administration and get finished were put on pause. and so they were pretty successful in getting their agenda advanced in that in the administration. The idea of the technology moving too quickly fur regulation is really interesting. A couple weeks ago, we didn't research on Gonzalez viii, Google, which is this case? That looks at the internet and section two thirty and one of the themes we walked away with. Was this idea that it's difficult to regulate tech companies, because the technology moves so fast, and I dont think I ever realised that that's the case when it comes to trains as well is
is the tec in everything really moving that quickly. An example of this, where there is a dispute right now, is that this technology that can automatically check by sea the health of tracks and this it's pretty new and the industry thinks that this is much better at finding potential opponents of tracks that can meet developments are the kinds of accidents than human inspectors, and so they ve been trying to get permission to brought back the number conversion inspections, that they do not rely on this technology and under by they have can have allowed some testing to go on, but what they ve been saying since the development in is passing, is you can do both like you? Don't need to get rid of the humans pensions, the visual inspections in order to use this technology, like that's, do both and have asked of double, not sacrificed.
Ones have another and let your eye, but you know to two ways of looking at these things, but the industry oversee or so as a kind of commercial incentive to try and use technology that might be cheaper than having people do the were yet it seems leg this seems like another iteration of this battle. We see between technology and you know, people being employed and I often wonder why that tension is their biggest, because I just figure machines can only work as good as the people who make them or utilizing them in rail like this really can have a clear example of this, which is these trains, she you know potentially miles long and another. One of the big disputes currently is how many people need to be on these trains and
stand at the moment is to add an engineer who essentially drives the train and a conductor, his responsible for keeping tabs on. What's on the train- and I think when I learned that that was recently astonishing to me when you think of just the size, these vehicles, you see them like rumbling through your town or whatever, that huge and ass to people on there and they used to be more. They used to be five, but the union's that represent The workers on our roads are worried that the railroads and looking to go down to just one, person just an engineer and then maybe if someone following a truck or on the ground- and so this certainly the union's view is, as he said, that he can account cut this, that that these machines do any work as well as the people, but the industry has seen its been able to cut the crews before and that, I think, is interested in thing if you can go even further. Real
road. Worker unions have been very much in the news in the past few months. Can you can you talk about those unions and sort of how their responding to the essen and that relationship back at the end of last year? These unions were very very tense contract negotiations, it's imperative that the companies in the union stay at the table and try and get in new deal. So we can get that vote out there at the end of the day, if, if we don't have a deal one of the union's for some reason doesn't get to an agreement with the company, then the that their railroad act works is congress will have to take action. One of the big sticking points was a man sick leave because of the way the railroads regulated. The federal government was able to step in and try and Go. She ate a resolution to that and they kind of did they came up with a deal. I had some pay rises in some.
changes in working conditions, but it wasn't walk all of the union's wanted, and so congress had to step in and essentially forced the union to take a deal- and we have seen now this year that they're kind of privately coming to terms on sick leave with some railroads but the union's base. Their think look at this. This development is passed in and say: look like. We were warning you that we play an essential role in safety and This is why safety really mad as light as real consequences. Here, one one of these trains comes off the trains next weekend, some of the policy proposals and, of course, the politics.
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ok to be white. It's a really weird thing to ask people and, to be honest, I haven't heard a good explanation for why, but we found answers today explained it's in your need. Every week day at two p m, this is the weeds and we're back with the washington post in Duncan. So I want to look forward and think of where we go from here. What are some of the policy proposals and regulation proposals that were seeing emerge that can make railway safer? So there's a few things
We've seen movement on some of these already the sick leave thing you know. Sexual british judge has cast that as a safety measure. Essentially, if you have workers who are exhausted, who are ill and can't take time off to get medical care that they're not going to be working safely. Like said, some of the railroads have sort of made some steps towards offering les and then the other thing that happened is that there is a close call reporting system that run by the government, and that is something that, the government says as away for workers to come forward and confidentially report safety risk without feeling like there's gonna, be repressed. Some roads had joined that, but the big fright railroads had resisted that and there administration can condemn pretty hard instead, that we really want you to join this instead, they ve all agreed that thou. Do that. I think, looking forward the bay
in the dispute that was already playing out before this derailment. Was this question of of crew size? Is the unions really want to get a floor set up? Do you know the kind of current standard? And there were some efforts to do that and the disks since around the bypass new frustrates lower a couple of years ago and the binding administration, propose doing that. As the regulation, there was a bill that was introduced after the development that includes that idea to so that is definitely a big one. I think that some questions about could be set standards for
a type of technology that is along the tracks and is designed to detect problems on the train. There have been implicated in this development that they are supposed to catch in this case, bearing far too hot on the train and day did bit too late, and so could be space them out differently. Could the threshold at which states and a warning to the crew b be changed and serve as interested in putting that into law while the other big thing that sexual boucher judges called for this in its in this legislation, as well as just to increase the fines for when railroads break these violations they kept our ran to india, thousand dollars, and these are companies that make billions and billions of dollars, and so what tat your business said is right. That's just now
Aren't too then answer again that legislation will also man put the maximum funds pretty dramatic. We potentially you mentioned those wayside, burying detectors a but another piece of technology. That's been talked about. A lot is electronically, controlled, pneumatic breaks as well did that factor into this and in kind of shed light on what those are for us. This was a huge dispute is really more political dispute. Then that should this, be about the weight of thinking as lake breaks being political air, and it gets back to this issue of the deregulation during the trumpet ministration. So the current emergency breaks have an air hose that's of connected between all the cars on a train, and so, when its tripped, it's like that s, ignore kind of pulses down the train and says it all the cars on some having their bright supplied at the same time.
The electronic price will be designed to have this kind of immediate breaking on all the cars and so the history is pre tangled here, but basically about illustration of all and said this, Be required on these high hasn't fallible trains and congress that ten and said you need to have another look at that when I can, fenced and so under the trump administration they did some math to try and figure out what would be the cost to the railroads of installing these bags and what would be the benefits in terms of preventing accidents and they found that in their view, it didn't it didn't pencil out, and so they repealed requirement. The train that drought in is passed in was not one these high hazard trains. It didn't made the definition and say
I even had the rule been in place. It wouldn't have had these brakes on and then there would have been a question about. Would they have helped stop it? Maybe they would have, but we just won't know- and so I think I mean often what happens is that these these developments and other transportation accidents they are investigated by the national transportation safety board, which his prey fairer, but it's also not dripping out information immediately and there was this kind of vacuum of infection seven were lots of vicious came up that maybe went totally opposite to what had happened here, but there is still interest in that technology, and the industry was excited about it at first, but now says it doesn't work particularly well. It's not super reliable, but pay
I think that there could be interest in transit, revive some rules around requiring that the smell, so it's been about a month, is derailment, which you know what is time it flies, and recently there has been a flurry of announcements and regulatory proposals. We have the railway safety act of twenty twenty three, but there is also talk of doing something along these has add real way. Routes can you talk about that a little bit the head of this for a railroad administration? He went back to his palestine and they have a bigger special truck than that that day posed in front of him, but isn't it uses this automated tracking, specks in technology and they're gonna go out, they're gonna start in his passing and look at the roots make sure can the physical infrastructure is up to snuff, but also make sure that all the boys are being followed, and I mean that's just
an effort by the government to make sure that the eyes adopted in the teeth of crossed paths, cats- and they may do these kinds of inspections anyway, but less than this would beacon of a new focus programme on routes where there might be a bit. risk nor folk, southern c o Alan shaw is set to appear before the senate, environment and public works committee. What will you be listening for during that testimony? I think room It would be interesting to hear the and the sort of potentially the openness to making changes to the way that they run their business. I'm a nurse they will have come a specific commitments back is that they have joined us confidential reporting systems the initially the industry's view was. We can't rushed to judgment here. We need to way and that the anti sb do its work. The antaeus bay is kind of release.
the least some preliminary findings than that gave people and not more to kind hold onto in terms of facts and potential lapses. In so that's why you start to see more of these proposals and, advisory coming out from their government as they kind of jail down on specific issues so, you know what will his position be? Will it be I'm sure they will want to tout the safety record as they see it, but this is a signal that their open to rethinking how they do things. What were they say about what their long term that man is gonna be too, and this community in these past seen because those kind of two paces to this story, in a way that you have the biosafety peace, but then they saw other environmental side, and is this gonna be a long process, radiation, and is this company gonna sick with this communication and how people out, I want get into the politics a little bit. I think
on one end, were seeing by partisan cooperation. I think of you know this bill being sponsored by J D. Vance answer, at brown, but on the other end it is partisan. People have criticized the response by the Biden, administration and the department of transportation's response, and you know former president donald trump, whose campaigning made a stop there. How are how are we seeing these politics play out yeah I mean I said before that that was sort of two dimensions to the story, but maybe that's really three, because the political dimension is really a whole kind of other aspect. To this, then it's, I think it's surprising people who investigate transportation accidents for a living like this, that kind of lead guy in the office that the ntsb was like. Normally, these things will happen and there'll be a lot of attention. On the first day
and it will wane and then buy a week later nobody's talking about it and this. The sort of opposite thing happened that it took a while for people to start paying attention and partly that's because they had to do this controlled burn of the chemical vinyl chloride and then used to have these images of just this huge plume of of black smoke and it raised the kind of environmental stakes I think part of that was just because of the nature of this incident, but I think also it took on this political life and a lot of that has been focused on people judge and the thing a big reason for that is that he's kind of an unusual person to be transportation sector like this is an office that their faced their crashes and big disasters things in the past. But I haven't been led by someone who was so political and he knows presented will have continuing political ambitions and so republicans in congress
already been looking for opportunities june to too to criticise him species. Air travel in winter was pretty messy and they tried to lessen of bad his door. Some of it, I think, reasonably soap and so he's just a pretty ripe target, and so the question was Firstly, why hasn't he showed up and say we did eventually gave out there or personnel were on the ground within hours of this incident. But I do think that every rail incident calls the question on. We can strengthen the regulation of rail safety in this country. Interesting to see this kind of to track the kind of political response, because Jed events and marker rubio, for example, have been some of the kind of loudest critics of birds The judge will of this. The secretary of transportation has been the recipient of hundreds of billions dollars of infrastructure funding, and yet it looks in a lot of ways like our infrastructure is degrading, or certainly not in better the set.
The thing is yesterday: pete, due to judge, had the opportunity to address this problem. He instead talked about the excessive amounts of this is not a joke to many white men in the construction industry. That is not a serious concern for this country right now. What's going on and east was scheme. Is the secretary transportation to focus on real problems, not fake problems, and until he does, people go to wonder whether he's doing his job and yet the sponsors of this legislation that does a lot of the things that has also been been calling for. So when the sort of you get down to Pacific's there seems to be may be some room for agreement, and I think that the another dimension to really watch at this. Carrying the republic consented come into that hearing with an agenda that is about to pursue This is a political battle. How much are democrats trying to defend them? Instructions response and how much is about,
trying to find solutions and trying to find ways to help the committee the aim is passing you get with these hearings. You get a chance to see the two approaches, side by side so will see how it plays out. An duncan covers federal transportation agencies and the politics of transportation for the washington post in the past month. I've been thinking a lot about train derailments end. While
he's palestine is top of my right now there was another norfolk southern derailment in ohio justice past weekend. There are lots of ideas and there's lots of attention being paid to trains right now, but it's really hard to say if any of these new initiatives could prevent another east palestine, we'll just have to wait and see. That's offer us today. Thank you to join a marsh, and he and duncan for joining name. A special thank you to Benjy jones for his reporting. Are producers socio, aligned, krishna, ally, engineered this episode, Elizabeth crane and kim Anglesey in fact checked it or at a trial directors am hall and I'm your host John clan. Hell the weeds, as per the vocs me a pod, cast network.
Transcript generated on 2023-03-12.