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In December, Hochul vetoed rail safety bill

Mar 01, 2023 1:03 pm

Julia Rock at New York Focus reports that on Dec. 9 last year, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul vetoed a bill that would have required most freight trains to be operated by at least a conductor and an engineer. It was a safety measure that both rail unions and bipartisan lawmakers supported. But railroad companies and business groups opposed it, and now Hochul's recent claims that train safety is her top priority after an Ohio train disaster in early February are being questioned. Rail companies have cut their workforces by nearly 30 percent in recent years and are operating longer and heavier trains now with smaller crews. “This bill was one part of a bigger look at the rail industry, and attempted to strengthen protections for both workers and the communities they travel through every day,” said Democratic Senator Tim Kennedy, the transportation committee chair and the Senate sponsor of the rail safety bill that Hochul vetoed. “The devastation that continues to unfold in East Palestine is the strongest form of evidence that rail safety needs to be prioritized, both in New York and across our country.” Business groups including Railroads of New York, the statewide industry group that represents CSX, Canadian National, Canadian Pacific, and Norfolk Southern, among others, reported lobbying against the bill in state filings reviewed by New York Focus. Hochul wrote in her veto memo that she did not sign the bill because she said federal laws and pending rulemaking preempt the legislation. James Louis, National Vice President of the 57,000-member Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, said, “She had an opportunity to improve rail safety and she let it go.... If she feels [safety is important] we could get that bill reintroduced and put it through — except now the railroads are using her argument that it’s preempted.” The Obama administration was working on a similar federal bill, which the Trump administration abandoned.

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