Balanced approach key to improving life for all Americans
By Terry Troy
The recent Norfolk Southern derailment in East Palestine revealed more than simply a need for greater rail safety along our Class I railways. It was also a clear indication of how far our national political discourse has moved away from being pro-business.
Certainly, the images were shocking. Who could not be moved by overhead shots of multiple rail cars on fire, spewing toxic and perhaps even cancerous materials into the air, water and earth? Every major news outlet, conservative, mainstream and progressive, decried the fate of the people in East Palestine. It was easy for both sides of the aisle, regardless of affiliation, to come to their rescue. And those residents should be compensated and helped.
But where were the proponents of business? Lost were the stories about rail still being one of the greenest and safest ways to move freight and cargo, let alone people, despite the dreadful accident.
That narrative, or I should say lack thereof, opened the door for Ohio’s representatives and senators to pass House Bill 23, which will no doubt overregulate a portion of the rail industry known as the “short lines,” those slow moving “first mile in and first mile out” operations that are light in terms of both volume and density—where derailments do occur, but happen at such slow speeds that catastrophic crashes or release of volatile or cancerous compounds are nearly impossible.
Instead, these operations will have to pull funds to address mandates created by the legislations away from monies that would normally be invested in upgrades to tracks and ties, improvements made to rail crossings or combatting trespassing—all of which are still major safety issues faced by this segment of the rail industry today.
But that was just one of the many fallouts from the event that were not about the environment or public safety. The implication from all major media (on both sides of the political aisle) was that their political party, whether in power or not, was somehow the champion of the people. There was also an implication that the major Class I railways are evil entities, moving hazardous cargo or freight in hazardous ways.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
First of all, no corporation wants to knowingly hurt the general public. True, some are neglectful, and they should be held accountable for their deeds. But even the Class I railways have been very proactive when it comes to improving safety on route as well as in the communities they pass through. And, as one of the sources in my story said off the record, “Railroads don’t make money when train cars jump the track and catch fire.”
It certainly doesn’t help when you see the images on the television screen night after night. It cements ideas in our collective consciousness as well as in our hearts.
What we need is to keep an eye toward practical measures that address issues relating to safety and accountability. We need a balanced approach to both sides of an issue or problem—not a knee jerk reaction to something we see on television.
But we also need a new champion for the issues of commerce, business and capitalism, which have done so well and gone so far in improving the quality of life for all Americans.