September 17, 2015

Manchin Encourages Senate Commerce Committee to Confirm WV Native Feinberg as Permanent Railroad Commissioner

Senator Manchin introduces Acting Administrator Sarah Feinberg before her nomination hearing

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) today introduced Sarah Feinberg, who has been nominated to become the permanent Administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), at her nomination hearing before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. Sarah Feinberg has been serving as the Acting Administrator of the FRA since January 9, 2015. As Acting Administrator, Feinberg has led the FRA through a challenging year that has included multiple high profile accidents, including the February 16th train derailment outside Mount Carbon, West Virginia.

Senator Manchin supports the West Virginia native’s nomination and believes that her experience as a leader and problem solver, along with her willingness to tackle difficult issues and engage stakeholders about realistic solutions, will be an asset to the FRA and the entire Department of Transportation. He also believes that her response to the Mount Carbon accident proved her ability to respond in emergency situations.

Following the February 16th train derailment in Mount Carbon, Senator Manchin has worked closely on ways to improve the safety of transporting Bakken crude oil and other energy products along our nation’s railroads. To review a timeline of his efforts, please click here.

To watch a video of Senator Manchin’s remarks, please click here.

Below are Senator Manchin’s remarks as prepared for delivery:

It is my honor to be able to introduce the Acting Administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and my friend Sarah Feinberg at her nomination hearing today.

As a native West Virginian, she has the same pragmatic approach to problem solving that you see among our Congressional delegation every day.

In West Virginia, it doesn’t matter if you’re a Republican or a Democrat – what a matter is if you can get the job done.

During my time in the State legislature, her father, Lee Feinberg, served on the West Virginia Governmental Ethics Commission, and instilled in her the same sense of moral responsibility that led him into public service.

Today, she sits before this Committee seeking to continue in public service as the Administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA).

Over the past nine months, I believe she has proven herself to be an effective and engaged leader with the courage to make tough decisions and the character to accept the criticism they often incite.

She was baptized by fire after being appointed to this position on January 9th of this year, leading the agency’s response to five major incidents within her first 60 days at the helm:

On February 3rd – six people were killed when a commuter train hit an SUV at a grade crossing in Valhalla, New York.

On February 4th – Fourteen tank cars carrying ethanol derailed just north of Dubuque, Iowa. Three of them caught fire.

On February 16th – Twenty-seven tank cars derailed outside Mount Carbon, West Virginia. They released 378,000 gallons of crude oil and ignited a fire that destroyed a nearby house.

On February 24th – A commuter train in Oxnard, California, hit a tractor trailer at a grade crossing and jumped the tracks.

On March 6th – Twenty-one cars derailed outside of Galena, Illinois, near the border with Wisconsin. Five of them caught fire.

I am a firm believer that elected officials need to be on the ground in emergency situations, supporting first responders and assisting those in need, and I was impressed by Ms. Feinberg’s response to the Mount Carbon derailment in West Virginia.

Five weeks in to her new job, she executed an efficient and effective federal response that was one of the best I’ve ever seen in my experience as an elected official.

There are a lot of smart policy people here in Washington, DC, but the best policy in the world won’t mean a thing if it doesn’t translate into anything in the real world.

Sarah’s response to the Mount Carbon accident showed me that she understood that and gave me faith in her ability not just to lead, but to listen to the people we’re here to serve.

Over the past 10 years, the increase in domestic energy production has been an engine of economic growth, and the Energy Information Administration predicts that growth to continue through 2020.

From 2009-2014, crude oil production in the United States increased by more than 62% - up from 5.35 million barrels per day in 2009 to 8.68 million barrels per day in 2014 – and the majority of this product is moving by rail.

In 2008, our railroads moved a meager 9,500 tank cars carrying crude oil.

Last year, that number grew to 500,000 tank cars – a 5,000% increase.

Unprecedented new challenges come along with the new economic opportunities presented by the growth in domestic energy production, and Ms. Feinberg’s experience makes her uniquely qualified to lead the FRA through this transition.

As Chief of Staff to Secretary Foxx, she helped the Department of Transportation develop a holistic strategy to improving the safety and security of crude-by-rail that required coordination between multiple administrations within the department.

The tough new tank car safety regulations that were finalized in May were dependent on close collaboration between the FRA and the Pipeline and Hazards Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA).

Sarah’s experience in the Secretary’s office and existing relationships throughout the Department allowed her to cut through red tape and get the right people in the room to get the job done.

While the new rules do not solve every problem, they represent a major step in the right direction.

They satisfied all or part of 10 outstanding National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recommendations, including all four recommendations that were made in April of this year.

Since taking the helm at the FRA earlier this year, I have been impressed by Ms. Feinberg’s willingness to tackle difficult issues and engage stakeholders about realistic solutions.

In May, she convened the Positive Train Control (PTC) Task Force to try to identify opportunities for the FRA to help railroads meet the December 31, 2015 deadline and become a real partner in this process.

I think her proactive approach to problem solving will be an asset to the FRA and the entire Department of Transportation.

Thank you for this opportunity to introduce Ms. Feinberg and address this Committee.