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Biden 'Applauds' Bipartisan Railway Safety Act Following Ohio Derailment

© AP Photo / Matt FreedA view of the scene Friday, Feb. 24, 2023, as the cleanup continues at the site of of a Norfolk Southern freight train derailment that happened on Feb. 3 in East Palestine, Ohio
A view of the scene Friday, Feb. 24, 2023, as the cleanup continues at the site of of a Norfolk Southern freight train derailment that happened on Feb. 3 in East Palestine, Ohio - Sputnik International, 1920, 03.03.2023
WASHINGTON (Sputnik) - US President Joe Biden said in a statement that he applauds the bipartisan Railway Safety Act, a new bill aimed at strengthening safety requirements for trains carrying hazardous materials in the United States following the recent train derailment incident and subsequent disaster in Ohio.
"I applaud the bipartisan group of senators for proposing rail safety legislation that provides many of the solutions that my administration has been calling for," the statement said on Thursday.
"This legislation provides us with tools to hold companies accountable to prevent terrible tragedies like the Norfolk Southern derailment in East Palestine and to make those communities whole."
According to Biden, if passed, the new legislation will phase in newer, safer tank cars over the next two years instead of the next decade and increase safety by requiring hotbox detectors every 10 miles to prevent derailments similar to the one in East Palestine, Ohio.
The legislation is also expected to increase fines for safety violations from the current cap of $225,000 to the greater of $1 million or 1% of a railroad’s annual operating income, the statement added.
To date, Biden has not visited East Palestine following the derailment and became the object of harsh criticism from Republican lawmakers and journalists for his trip to Kiev against the backdrop of what happened in Ohio.
Earlier in the day, while speaking to media following the Senate Democratic luncheon, the US President said that he "will be out there [in East Palestine] at some point," but did not clarify when exactly he is going to visit the small village in Ohio.
Workers at disaster zone in East Palestine, Ohio. - Sputnik International, 1920, 01.03.2023
East Palestine Residents Reportedly Suffering From ‘Chemical Bronchitis’ After Train Derailment
On February 3, a train hauling 20 cars from Norfolk Southern with hazardous materials derailed in East Palestine, Ohio. A big fire erupted due to the derailment, leading to officials burning vinyl chloride inside five of the tanker cars to avoid a catastrophic explosion. The accident released toxic chemicals, including hydrogen chloride, phosgene, butyl acrylate, and ethylene, into the environment.
The CEO of Norfolk Southern has been heavily criticized by the residents and political leaders for the lack of engagement following the disaster. The company's president visited East Palestine, Ohio, but Norfolk Southern representatives did not show up at a public meeting last week where residents gathered, citing fear of physical threats.
Despite repeated assurances that the air and water are safe, residents in the area have told Sputnik of recent health impacts, including headaches, burning skin and irritated eyes as well as anxiety about long-term health risks such as cancer. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources told Sputnik in mid-February that approximately 3,500 fish had died in waterways near the train derailment site.
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