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Cleveland City Council encourages new rail safety legislation following East Palestine derailment

Councilwoman Jenny Spencer has already introduced a resolution urging Congress to pass legislation introduced by Ohio Sens. Sherrod Brown and JD Vance.

CLEVELAND — Since the East Palestine train derailment in February, other municipalities — like Cleveland — want to promote more rail safety, especially after hearing that same train that wrecked, went through town.

"[It's,] 'Who is keeping us safe?'" City Councilwoman Jenny Spencer says. "It's, 'Who are the folks at the federal level who regulate this industry and are ultimately responsible for the safe transport of materials through our communities?'"

Spencer serves Ward 15, which has multiple rail lines running right next to her constituents. She says there's been increased concern since the derailment, so it's time to take a serious look at precautions Cleveland has in place.

"How, and to what degree, are first responders given what they need to be prepared to respond should the worst occur?" she asked.

Spencer believes an existing piece of proposed legislation could be the answer, and it originated here in Ohio.

"Sen. Vance and Sen. Sherrod Brown have co-sponsored this Federal Rail Safety Act of 2023," she noted. "It's a big deal, and I feel like all Ohioans need to get behind them and help get that bill across the finish line."

For Spencer, that leaves three major things she wants to know as far as safety moving forward, including giving communities a heads up if and when toxic chemicals are being transported locally.

"The rail safety itself — are the systems in place to stop another East Palestine?" she added. "Worker safety — making sure the Norfolk Southern workers are well-resourced enough to keep us safe. And the third part is the actual routing [of trains]."

Spencer has already introduced a resolution in city council urging Congress to pass Brown and Vance's bill. A public meeting for members of the Cleveland community has also been scheduled for this coming Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. from the Mercedes Cotner Committee Room inside City Hall, with representatives from the offices of U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown and U.S. Rep. Shontel Brown scheduled to attend. Spencer will also chair the hearing.

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