In focus: U.S. Rep. Chris Deluzio

U.S. Representative Chris Deluzio at a meeting of the House Committee on Armed Services
U.S. Rep. Chris Deluzio (D-17) at a meeting of the House Committee on Armed Services, one of the two military-related committee assignments for the Naval Academy graduate. Photo: Nate Payne

The redrawn 17th Congressional District is shaped like a funhouse mirror version of the state of Louisiana, encompassing all of Beaver County, stretching south to South Fayette and east as far as West Deer and Springdale townships. Along the way it picks up Penn Hills, Wilkinsburg and Oakmont, while skirting the city of Pittsburgh. Mt. Lebanon is on the southern border of the 17th.

In 2022, U.S. Rep. Chris Deluzio was elected to represent the district. Deluzio, a Democrat, is a native of Thornburg and lives with his family in Aspinwall. He is a graduate of the United States Naval Academy, served as a surface warfare officer and also served a tour in Iraq, attached to an Army civil affairs unit.

After completing his service, Deluzio graduated from Georgetown Law School and specialized in voting rights law, working at the Brennan Center for Justice and then at Pitt Cyber, where he focused on voting rights, election security, and the intersection of technology and civil rights. He serves on the House Veterans’ Affairs and House Armed Services committees.

Little more than a month after taking office, the derailment of a Norfolk Southern train carrying hazardous chemicals in East Palestine, Ohio, impacted a large chunk of Deluzio’s district. As a result, he has introduced two legislative bills, the Decreasing Emergency Railroad Accident Instances Locally (DERAIL) Act and the bipartisan Railway Safety Act, with Republican Congressman Nick LaLota of New York. That bill is a House of Representatives version of the Senate’s Railway Safety Act, introduced by Pennsylvania senators Bob Casey Jr. and John Fetterman.

The DERAIL Act expands the definition of what the U.S. Department of Transportation classifies as a “high-hazard flammable train,” adding several combustible compounds to the list and, more importantly, reducing the number of rail cars carrying flammable material to just one car. Under current D.O.T. standards, a train isn’t classified as high-hazard flammable unless it contains either 20 consecutive, or 35 total cars carrying flammable material.

“Norfolk Southern’s greed and incompetence has hurt a lot of people,” Deluzio said. “People whose lives have been upended, and are worried about long-term health effects. For far too long, the railroads have put their profits ahead of safety.”

Working with LaLota on the Railway Safety Act afforded a moment of bipartisanship in a Washington climate where that can be a rarity. Deluzio’s first days as a newly elected representative saw a record-breaking 15 votes before California Republican Kevin McCarthy was confirmed as Speaker of the House.

“I saw some crazy partisanship battles, like the mess of electing a speaker, but I also see a lot of opportunities for bipartisanship,” said Deluzio, “Both of the committees I serve on, Veterans’ Affairs and Armed Services, everyone seems to have a common goal.”

In addition to railway safety, Deluzio cites the Bipartisan infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act as sources of revenue to improve other forms of transportation in the region, including upgrades to the Pittsburgh District’s 23 locks and dams, and $3.5 million toward the renovation of Pittsburgh International Airport.

In addition to infrastructure support, the Inflation Reduction Act features health care provisions capping the price of insulin and expanding the list of vaccines available at no cost, and also aims to lower energy costs with clean energy incentives such as tax credits for purchasing energy-saving appliances and vehicles.

“I applaud Mt. Lebanon for taking the lead on a climate action plan,” said Deluzio. “We need municipalities to be out front, pushing for solutions to climate change.”

Deluzio has three offices in the district. The nearest to Mt. Lebanon is at the Carnegie Office Park, 600 N. Bell Avenue, 412-344-5583.