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Norfolk Southern to ‘pay the price’ for Ohio wreck, professor says

Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw is answering questions from lawmakers in a Senate panel on Thursday over the train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio.

The wreckage of the incident led to a chemical spill raising questions on further regulation in transporting hazardous materials via railroads. Northwestern University Professor Emeritus Joseph L. Schofer says it’s possible, but doubtful.

“If there’s a change in operations and strategy and in regulations, it may be in detecting events as they proceed, that is, to catch this before it happens,” says Schofer.

Senators look to grill Norfolk Southern (NSC) on clean-up efforts and its recent train derailment incidents. CEO Alan Shaw told committee members he is "deeply sorry" for the East Palestine accident and is "determined to make it right."

Schofer says “Norfolk Southern is going to pay a price for this, certainly a public relations price if not a monetary price as well. The whole industry will learn from this.”

Above, Yahoo! Finance's Julie Hyman and Ines Ferre spoke to Joseph L. Schofer.

Key video moments:

00:00:08- Transportation of hazardous material

00:00:39- Obligations for railroads

00:01:07- Outcome for Norfolk Southern

Video Transcript

INES FERRE: Do you see more regulations coming down the line when it comes to transporting hazardous materials via rail?

JOSEPH L. SCHOFER: It's possible, but I seriously doubt it. I mean, again, my sense is, let's try to understand what the causal factors here were and address those causal factors. So I would not jump right away to regulation. It doesn't say that it's going to happen, but I don't see that as an immediate answer. Probably if there's a change in operations and strategy and in regulations, it may be in detecting events as they proceed. That is, to catch this before it happens. But I don't think it's a matter of pulling hazardous materials out of the railroads.

One of the things to keep in mind is that railroads have an obligation to serve. They have a common carrier obligation. And within broad limits, they're not in a position to say, no, I won't carry your goods. Their business is to keep the economy going. So the question is, how do you find a way to assure that? They're motivated to do it. Norfolk Southern is going to pay a price for this, certainly a public relations price, if not a monetary price as well. The whole industry will learn from this. Going to more automated detection, yeah, probably a really good idea. Feasible, costs money, that's fine. It's worth it.