The Pennsylvania Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee has voted to subpoena Alan Shaw, CEO of Norfolk Southern, to testify at a hearing on Wednesday, March 8.
Sen. Doug Mastriano (R-Franklin), chair of the committee, said his group wants to hear from Shaw about the company’s response to the February 3 train wreck in East Palestine, Ohio., its decision to ignite dangerous chemicals from several of the railcars, and the ways these actions negatively affected the health and safety of nearby Pennsylvania residents.
“The people of Western Pennsylvania want answers,” said Mastriano. “They feel forgotten. They have been.”
Sen. Katie Muth (D-Berks/Chester/Montgomery), the committee’s minority chair, added that if the committee is unable to get data and information from Norfolk Southern, “I don’t want to hear that people aren’t in danger. I refuse to believe the government that says everything is fine without documentation. These people deserve better.”
There was concern among the members that issuing a subpoena would only be symbolic.
“Let’s not pretend it will be anything more,” said Sen. Maria Collett (D-Montgomery). “The cadre of lawyers employed by Norfolk Southern are going to answer this shot across the bow with delay. The people of Pennsylvania deserve more than a subpoena. They deserve answers.”
The committee held a hearing in Beaver County on February 23, to hear from local residents affected by the train derailment, state agencies involved in the response and local emergency personnel who responded to the disaster. Shaw was invited to attend the hearing, but failed to appear.
The panel becomes the first legislative body in the United States to subpoena the CEO in the aftermath of the catastrophe.
The committee also moved SB 446 out of committee to the full Senate by a 7-4 vote. The bill states that members and employees of the Pennsylvania National Guard and Pennsylvania Air National Guard will never be required to receive a COVID-19 vaccination.