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Indiana congressman says final report on derailment needed before changing rules

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A congressman on the subcommittee that oversees railroads told News 8 Friday it’s too soon to say what regulations, if any, would have prevented a derailment in Ohio.

Rep. Rudy Yakym, R-Indiana, serves on the Railroad Subcommittee of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. He said officials briefed the committee last week on the fiery derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, in which first responders had to conduct a controlled explosion of toxic vinyl chloride from five tank cars to prevent an uncontrolled explosion. Yakym said lawmakers will monitor Norfolk Southern’s response to ensure company officials fulfill their promises to the town.

As for Republican criticism of the Biden Administration’s response, Yakym said while he felt it was a little slow at first, he is more satisfied with the resources now being put toward relief and investigating the incident.

State officials told News 8 earlier this week the railroads are not required to notify them of any trains carrying hazardous, flammable cargo unless there are at least 20 such cars in a row on a train, or at least 35 cars total carrying such cargo. The state fire marshal said about a dozen such trains go through Indiana each week. Yakym said he doubted changing this requirement would have made a difference.

“If they would have had to report it, would that have prevented this accident from happening? I don’t think so,” he said. “There’s no evidence so far to show that a different regulatory environment would have prevented this accident. “

Yakym also serves on the House Budget Committee. Asked about the ongoing fight over the debt ceiling and the looming risk of a debt default this summer, he said he would like to see spending for all government programs held to 2022 levels rather than cutting any one particular program. He said the United States will not default on its debt.

“All INdiana Politics” airs at 9:30 a.m. Sundays on WISH-TV.