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Young people in Georgia on the brink of reshaping political landscape; Garland faces down GOP attacks over Hunter Biden inquiry; rural Iowa declared 'ambulance desert.'

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McConnell warns government shutdowns are "a loser for Republicans," Schumer takes action to sidestep Sen. Tuberville's opposition to military appointments, and advocates call on Connecticut governor to upgrade election infrastructure.

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An Indigenous project in South Dakota seeks to protect tribal data sovereignty, advocates in North Carolina are pushing back against attacks on public schools, and Arkansas wants the hungriest to have access to more fruits and veggies.

VA Environmentalists Disagree with DEQ’s Norfolk Southern Fine

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Wednesday, March 22, 2023   

Virginia environmentalists are frustrated by the state Department of Environmental Quality's $27,000 fine of Norfolk Southern for a 2020 train derailment.

The derailment caused 16 boxcars to spill almost 1,400 tons of coal into the Roanoke River. The town of Salem's water plant had to halt intake for about a month over concerns of possible water contamination.

Tim Cywinski, communications manager for the Virginia chapter of the Sierra Club, said the fine is disheartening because it does not deter derailments from happening again. He feels the state failed to take certain things into consideration while determining this fine.

"I think they should have taken into account that Norfolk Southern is one of the biggest and most profitable train and freight services industries in the United States," Cywinski pointed out. "And to give them a fine that is less than the price of a new car is honestly laughable and just offensive to the fact that it impacted the people and environment of Salem, Virginia."

Cywinski added state and federal protections need to be put in place to better hold companies accountable, and to prevent such derailments from happening again.

Derailments are not uncommon. According to the Federal Railroad Administration, there were more than 1,100 derailments in 2020, a number which has fluctuated in the few years since.

Since Norfolk Southern first came under fire for a crash involving hazardous materials in East Palestine, Ohio, numerous railroad safety groups have been working to improve the industry's safety regulations.

Ann Creasy, acting deputy director of the Virginia chapter of the Sierra Club, said new regulations need to go hand in hand with levying appropriate fines against companies to deter future incidents.

"It's really about corporate accountability of ensuring that safety and workers and proactive measures are invested in on the front end," Creasy contended.

A bill has been introduced in the U.S. Senate called the Railway Safety Act of 2023. The bill aims to boost safety requirements for trains transporting hazardous materials. Hearings have been held, and it is currently under review by the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs.

Disclosure: The Sierra Club contributes to our fund for reporting on Climate Change/Air Quality, Energy Policy, Environment, and Environmental Justice. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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