The train wreck in Ohio is one of over 1,000 a year in the United States -- the result of a process one might metaphorically describe as a train wreck, an apt description also of how the disaster has been handled thus far.

The Obama administration looked into tougher rules for trains carrying hazardous materials -- including speed limits, stronger cars, better brakes, and more disclosure to local officials -- but largely backed off under corrupting pressure from the chemical industry. Obama's team did require some hazmat trains to have better brakes (better than the Civil War-era technology that is the U.S. norm), but the Trump administration repealed that rule, and Biden's hasn't restored it.

Click here to tell the White House and the Congress to do better.

The train that derailed in Eastern Ohio that is big news, is big news because it was carrying toxic and carcinogenic chemicals that exploded into flames. The government and railway officials made the questionable decision to "burn off" vinyl chloride, sending 1.1 million pounds of the carcinogen into the community, a decision quite possibly driven by cost and profit considerations.

The train was not classified as a high-hazard flammable train, so Norfolk Southern did not have to tell anyone what was in it. This meant that firefighters and first responders did not know what they were dealing with.

The train was not equipped with electronic brakes.

The train was 1.7 miles long but had a crew of only two, plus a trainee.

If this all sounds unacceptable, click here to demand better going forward.

Train Wreck

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Toxic chemicals have been put into the air over hundreds of miles, creating a major public health emergency. But it hasn't been declared an emergency. It needs to be. President Biden could declare an emergency and thereby create a taskforce to address it, one made up of independent scientists not corrupted in the manner of the EPA and many elected officials. This independent task force must be empowered to threaten the suspension or nationalization of Norfolk Southern to compel cooperation.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg pretends that he cannot, but he can, and must, expand the definition of “high-hazard flammable trains” to include all trains carrying compounds that can explode and poison the air, thereby giving local officials knowledge of what is in trains passing through.

The White House or Congress, whoever will act first, must bring back the electronic brake rule undone by the Trump administration.

The Biden administration must reverse its support for Norfolk Southern in a lawsuit that currently threatens to make it harder to sue such companies.

The Biden administration must apologize for having blocked a strike by railroad workers who are overworked and stretched too thin, and declare an intent to respect their right to strike or negotiate without interference.

The Department of Transportation must finalize and implement a rule repealing the Trump administration’s permitting the transport of liquefied natural gas by rail, and deploy hot-box detectors to warn train crews of overheated bearings, and mandate railroads’ participation in a system that lets rail workers and railroads report near misses.

The Congress must move some fraction of the resources it puts into fueling wars into a major upgrade of the absurdly decrepit infrastructure under which the United States struggles to function.

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-- The team

>> The Guardian: "Ohio is facing a chemical disaster. Biden must declare a state of emergency"
>> The New York Times: "Over 1,000 Trains Derail Every Year in America. Let’s Bring That Number Down."
>> The Lever: "Biden DOJ Backing Norfolk Southern’s Bid To Block Lawsuits"
>> The Lever: "Buttigieg Pretends He’s Powerless To Reduce Derailment Risks"
>> Democracy Now: "Corporate Greed and Deregulation Fuel Threat of More Bomb Trains As East Palestine Demands Answers"


Read more Anti-Corporate analysis and action at Progressive Hub.

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