In February, a Norfolk Southern train derailed in East Palestine, with a population of less than 5,000, leaving chemicals spewing into the community’s environment. Since then, officials estimate more than 43,000 fish and other aquatic animals have died as a result of the toxic chemical spill that has left ground soil contaminated while residents fear drinking the tap water.
Sen. J.D. Vance (R-OH), Sens. Josh Hawley (R-MO), Marco Rubio (R-FL), John Fetterman (D-PA), Bob Casey (D-PA), and Sherrod Brown (D-OH), introduced the Railway Safety Act to, among other things, increase fines for companies like Norfolk Southern that spur such disastrous train derailments.
Likewise, the bipartisan bill would require rail companies to notify local firefighters and other first responders when hazardous chemicals are traveling through such communities. The bill, though, is deeply opposed by the nation’s biggest rail companies, including Norfolk Southern, which have been lobbying lawmakers in Washington, DC ,to oppose the legislation.
Among those opponents is Cruz, a longtime beneficiary of campaign contributions from rail companies, who is circulating a letter to House Republicans representing Texas that would have them publicly trash the Railway Safety Act and, specifically, secure opposition from Rep. Troy Nehls (R-TX), who leads the Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials.
The letter circulated by Cruz, exclusively obtained by Breitbart News, reads in full:
In 2018, facing re-election, a political action committee (PAC) funded by BNSF Railway donated $10,000 to Cruz while executives at BNSF Railway donated more than $35,000. Likewise, Union Pacific Railroad’s PAC donated $10,000 to Cruz and spent almost $7,000 to help him get re-elected.
Meanwhile, that same year, Norfolk Southern’s PAC funded Cruz’s re-election campaign to the tune of $5,000. Similarly, the Cruz-aligned Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) — which has lobbied against Vance’s legislation — is funded directly by the railway industry, including Norfolk Southern, Union Pacific, CSX Corporation, BNSF Railway, and the Association of American Railroads.
Also in 2018, a PAC affiliated with Cruz enjoyed massive support from rail companies, including $30,000 from Union Pacific, $20,000 from CSX Corporation, and $20,000 from Norfolk Southern.
There have been more than 450 train derailments across the state of Texas since Cruz took office in 2013 — causing 11 deaths, 44 injuries, and spurring $129 million in damages.
Most recently, a Union Pacific train traveling from Wyoming to California lost roughly 60,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate, a chemical used for explosives. Currently, officials suspect that the explosive chemical leaked through the bottom of the train while in transit.
Under Vance’s legislation, first responders where the Union Pacific train carrying the ammonium nitrate passed through would have been notified in advance by the rail company that such hazardous materials were in proximity to their communities.
A spokesman for Cruz did not reply to a request for comment at the time of this publication.