After Norfolk Southern Derailment in Pittsburgh on Saturday, Summer Lee, Lindsey Williams, Sara Innamorato & Enviro Organizers Hold Press Conference Calling for Accountability for “Bomb Trains”, derailments & Corporations Putting Profits over the Safety of People and Communities

After Norfolk Southern Derailment in Pittsburgh on Saturday, Summer Lee, Lindsey Williams, Sara Innamorato, Enviro Organizers Hold Press Conference Calling Accountability for “Bomb Trains” and derailments, Corporations Putting Profits over the Safety of People and Communities 

Leaders highlight the need to end the prioritization of profits before people and lack of regulation that encourages corporations to poison our air and water for profit

(Pittsburgh, PA) Today, Summer Lee (D-PA) held a press conference responding to Norfolk Southern’s latest derailment this Saturday in Pittsburgh along with Senator Lindsey Williams (D-38),  PA Rep. Sara Innamorato (D-21), leaders from Conservation Voters of PA, Climate Power, Vanessa Lynch from Moms Clean Air Taskforce, Zach Barber, Penn Environment’s Clean Air Advocate, Patrick Campbell, Executive Director, and Group Against Smog & Pollution (GASP) on the urgent need to protect citizens from the dangers of “bomb trains” like the one which derailed in East Palestine, Ohio in February on a route that runs directly through Pittsburgh and caused serious threats to clean air and water in Western PA. 

Watch the full press conference here

*HQ Video Available Upon Request*

While the five Norfolk Southern train cars that derailed on Saturday near Pittsburgh’s West End Saturday shortly before 1 p.m. in the area of West Carson and Telford streets did not cause injuries or safety hazards, it’s the second in Western PA in the past month and a clear indication of a larger safety crisis. There are 1700 train derailments every year and the rate of train accidents has risen 27% over the last 10 years. In the past week alone, almost every major rail company in the United States has had a multi-car derailment. As of April 4th, at least 157 cars derailed in six train accidents around the country in the prior week alone.

The press conference was held at the Kingsley Association, approximately 500 feet from Norfolk-Southern tracks used by the train which derailed in East Palestine, which serves many of the working-class, minoritized families disproportionately harmed by environmental injustice.

Lee has taken numerous actions at the federal level to hold big rail accountable and protect the safety of communities. Lee is an original cosponsor of Congressman Deluzio’s HR1238 – Decreasing Emergency Railroad Accident Instances Locally (DERAIL) Act. In February, Lee joined a Letter calling for funding for PHMSA and the Federal Railroad Association to prevent disasters like E. Palestine. Lee also Joined letters advocating for full FY2024 appropriations funding for Amtrak passenger rail (including $1 billion for rail infrastructure and safety improvements, $50 million for a restoration and enhancement grant program). 

Transcript of Remarks: (Watch the full press conference here)

Good morning, everybody! Thank you to all of our tireless environmental justice activists, agitators, and community organizers joining us today. 

And thank you to the Kingsley Association for hosting us at your community center here in Pittsburgh’s East serving so many of the working-class, minoritized families disproportionately harmed by environmental injustice.

We stand together in solidarity today to call for stronger safety regulations for “bomb trains” because for too long CEO’s of rail giants have put profits over people, selfishness over safety & their own bonuses over reliable braking systems……Because when greedy corporations are allowed and encouraged to poison our communities for profit, we ALL suffer….. Because our Black, brown, and poor families – already suffering from dirty air and drinking water, underinvestment, and lack of health care – are left to foot the bill & clean up the mess. 

Growing up in the Mon Valley where we still have some of the worst air quality in the nation, I came to environmental justice work out of personal necessity. So I want to be clear that when we’re talking about protecting Western PA against bomb trains, that personal necessity applies to US ALL. 

Where we stand right now is less than 500 feet from the tracks that carried the Norfolk-Southern train that derailed just 50 miles away in East Palestine, Ohio. We can see the tracks right out this window (point) and I can even see and hear the trains from my living room.

That train that derailed and dumped 100,000 gallons of hazardous, explosive materials, was headed towards to Western PA. 

Had that bomb train derailed here in the East End, the devastation in our community would have been unimaginable.

Poisoned air and toxic drinking water – full of carcinogens causing our loved ones to suffer from brain, liver & lung cancer. 

Entire neighborhoods destroyed & homes demolished. Schools and small businesses shut down for months. 

Our Kids would be suffering from skin rashes, headaches, eye problems & coughing, even serious cognitive problems. Their Parents would be forced to watch them go from being normal children to  “lethargic” 

Those of us lucky enough to be physically healthy would be suffering from intense stress, anxiety & trauma from watching our loved ones suffer, or losing our pets, our jobs, our livelihoods, and property. The place we call home, would now be an unlivable hell.

If you took the one-mile blast-zone in Ohio and applied it to Pittsburgh, it would cover more than 170,000 workers & residents & all of our most critical infrastructure from hospitals, to museums, stadiums  & even the convention center. Had this catastrophe happened here with our larger, denser population, and explosive energy facilities,  there’s no question that the bomb train would have resulted in death.

As you all know, THIS Saturday, five Norfolk Southern cars DID derail here in Pittsburgh. This time in the West End, marking the third time one of the company’s trains has derailed in just two months.

I thank God that this time, there were no injuries or safety hazards, but with Seventeen Hundred derailments each year and rising over 27% in the past decade, we cannot afford to leave preventing such a safety crisis up to chance

Rail workers warned this would happen. That’s one of the reasons they went on strike. But instead of making trains safer, Norfolk Southern did $10 billion in stock buybacks,  silenced whistleblowers, and laid off almost a third of their workers

We CANNOT trust the railroad to regulate itself and we CANNOT compromise on community safety. That’s why I’m proud to be an original cosponsor of Congressman Deluzio’s DERAIL Ac which will keep us safer by imposing stricter regulations on trains carrying hazardous materials, reversing the Trump-era rollback of safety regulations on the rail industry. 

Now, given the harm to their own constituents and the promises they made on cable news, you’d think Republicans would’ve been willing to stand up to their donors and lobbyists and join us just this once. 

But instead of holding big rail corporations accountable for toxin dumping derailments, Republicans literally proposed a budget to cut 11,000 rail safety inspections & 30,000 miles of track inspections. Instead of cosponsoring the DERAIL Act, they introduced a nothing burger of a bill in lockstep with industry talking points. And instead of protecting their constituents, those same Republicans passed the “Polluters over people” Act through the House to give fossil fuel CEOs pumping toxins into our air and drinking water a tax break paid while they rake in record profits paid for by ripping the rest of us off. 

Enough is enough. It’s time for bold action that not only protects us against bomb train crises, but guarantees health, safety, clean air and water for us ALL. It’s time for accountability for corporate abusers who think they can poison our air and water for profit. And it’s time for Congress to fight as hard as the organizers and leaders like State Senator Lindsey Williams who I’ll pass it to next.

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