Train companies, oil industry spend millions on Capitol Hill


YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – The railroad and oil and gas industries are spending big money on Capitol Hill while Congress is looking at new rules for companies that transport crude oil by train.

Data company Map Light keeps track of money being spent on campaign donations and political lobbying. The report says the railroad industry has contributed $23 million this election cycle.

The company said most of that has gone to members of Congress charged with making those rules on oil trains.

“Far too often, members of Congress, some of my allies, some of my colleagues in Congress, have succumbed to lobbyist pressure on health and safety issues,” U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said.

Brown said input from industry is important on the matter, but public health and safety have to be at the center of the new rules.

Part of Brown’s plan would create a new communication system between the train companies and the community. The train industry has said the proposed timetable and fees for switching to newer, safer train cars is impossible.

Some state agencies are also claiming announcing train routes is a security risk.

“First responders always are notified prior to the train coming through the county so if there is an accident, local first responders are prepared to answer,” Brown said. “If they are not telling us that, if they are going through in secret, it is a significant public health problem we should address.”

Norfolk Southern, one of the main operators of oil routes in the region, did not return our calls.

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