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Norfolk Southern's lobbyists vs. new safety rules

Plus, US Steel targeted for acquisition.

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Tuesday, August 22, 2023
Rail rules, shell company, outside referrals, vehicular manslaughter, DA imprisoned, and defection speculation at the Little League World Series.

Norfolk Southern is spending big sums in D.C. lobbying for weaker regulations amid East Palestine-inspired pushes for tougher safety standards.

The Intercept reports that since February's toxic derailment near the Pennsylvania-Ohio border, the rail giant has spent $1.9 million on lobbyists and donations to congressional campaigns and political action committees — all as federal legislation aimed at imposing new safeguards for hazardous shipments stalled in the U.S. Senate due to a lack of GOP support.

Read the full report: Norfolk Southern is lobbying for weaker regulation and rewarding members of Congress who play along

THE CONTEXT: The Lever reported earlier this month that the oil company Occidental Petroleum, whose vinyl chloride was released following the East Palestine crash, gave $2 million to the U.S. Senate GOP as lawmakers watered down proposed rules in the bipartisan Railway Safety Act.

That bill was co-sponsored by both of Pennsylvania's U.S. senators, Democrats Bob Casey and John Fetterman, but revised in a key Senate committee, several Republican members of which were sent thousands of dollars by Norfolk Southern soon after, The Intercept notes. 

A state-level push to update rail rules in Pennsylvania, inspired by the East Palestine crash, also saw pushback from the industry and its allies.

Read more, via City & State: Norfolk Southern still hasn't joined “near-miss” reporting system despite promising to in March.


“As Bucks County goes, Pennsylvania will go.”

—State Sen. Steve Santarsiero (D., Bucks) on the Bucks County commissioner race being watched for 2024 presidential contest headwinds
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» Senate set to finalize Pa. budget next week, via @StephenJ_Caruso
» Casey campaign got $220K from law firm of senator's brother, via NY Post
» Perry rents offices from Jan. 6 defendant, via The Inquirer (paywall)
» GOP's uphill battle for Casey's seat, via Washington Examiner
» Pa. lawmaker to introduce 4-day workweek bill, via KDKA-TV
Lake Luxembourg in Core Creek Park, Bucks County, via Yoma U. Have a photo you want to share with the whole state? Send it to us by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
Trees surround a dock on a lake.
Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.CAMP CONCERNS: An Orthodox Jewish camp shuttered by regulators in Connecticut over filthy conditions and unsupervised children is looking to reopen in Pennsylvania, CT Insider reports. Pennsylvania officials didn't say whether they knew about the prior issues.

Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.SHELL SCHEME: The Inquirer (paywall) reports Philadelphia upped its contract with a politically connected paving company nearly two years after learning the firm was accused of using a shell company to get around Philadelphia’s rules for hiring Black-owned businesses.

Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.
988 STATISTICS: According to a KFF analysis, about 21% of the 14,000-plus Pennsylvania calls made to the 988 crisis line in April and May of this year were redirected to other states, making connecting to local services even harder, Axios reports.
Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.TROOPER CHARGED: A state trooper named Michael Brown is charged with vehicular homicide for a fatal head-on crash that authorities say happened when he tried to illegally pass a vehicle; 47-year-old teacher Christine Woodward was killed.
Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.DA SENTENCED: Suspended Somerset County District Attorney Jeffrey Thomas has been sentenced to two to seven years in prison following a mixed verdict in his sexual assault trial earlier this year. Thomas, 37, plans to appeal, the Tribune-Democrat reports.
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COACH MIA: A coach for the first Cuban team in the Little League World Series is unaccounted for after Sunday's loss to Panama.
  • RELATED: Pa. team eliminated from tourney, via CBS3.
UP FOR SALE: CNN reports Pittsburgh-based U.S. Steel, "once a symbol of America’s economic might, is now for sale in the bargain bin."

SEN. 'STACHE: U.S. Sen. John Fetterman (D., Pa.) lost a bet to his son, grew a mustache, and is now drawing Walter White comparisons.

BUG DROP: Researchers tell WITF there are indeed fewer spotted lanternflies in central Pennsylvania this summer, but the exact reason is elusive.

JAIL SALE: A jailhouse is up for sale in Bedford, Zillow Gone Wild reports. It has 8,000 square feet and 18 cells for $274,900.
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