In the wake of the catastrophic train derailment this winter in East Palestine, Ohio, federal regulators and bipartisan lawmakers agreed it was past time to impose new safety regulations on the railroad industry. But rail and chemical industry lobbyists are working hard to undercut those efforts — and Ohio’s own bipartisan dealmaker Sen. J.D. Vance (R) is helping them.
For nearly a decade, lawmakers and railroad regulators have been trying to get puncture-susceptible tank cars, designed in the 1960s for non-hazardous shipments, off the nation’s tracks. In the wake of the catastrophic derailment and chemical release in East Palestine, Ohio, in February, bipartisan rail safety legislation committed to quickly end hazardous material shipments in the antiquated tank cars, which regulators said had failed at higher rates during the Ohio derailment than updated, fortified tank cars on the same train.
“The Railway Safety Act would require the adoption of safer tank cars that carry hazardous materials by 2025, instead of 2029 — something we’ve called on Congress to get done,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg tweeted when the bill was introduced.
But last month, the bill’s co-sponsor, Sen. J.D. Vance (R-Ohio), quietly amended his own legislation to delay the tank car change by years, at the request of rail and chemical industry lobbyists.
After the amendment passed, Vance touted the American Chemistry Council’s support for the bill — without mentioning that the lobbying group had backed the change to the tank car rules. Vance, whose home state is nurturing a growing petrochemical industry, is one of the Senate’s top recipients of chemical industry cash.