EPA orders Norfolk Southern to clean up after East Palestine crash
The EPA will order Norfolk Southern to clean up contaminated soil and water resources at the site of its Ohio derailment.LEARN MORE
Federal environmental regulators on Tuesday are taking charge of the cleanup from the East Palestine, Ohio, train derailment and chemical spill.
A new clinic dedicated to treating people worried about the lasting effects of the East Palestine trail derailment has opened, with evaluation rooms in a church as well as a mobile medical unit outside.
The clinic got a visit from three VIPs Tuesday morning: the governors of Ohio and Pennsylvania, along with the Environmental Protection Agency’s administrator.
The governors and EPA chief visited homes in East Palestine. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine even took a drink from the city-supplied tap water to show that it is safe to drink and to show confidence in the federal and state agencies conducting the tests.
They held a news conference to detail the order the EPA just invoked on Norfolk Southern. Here's what it entails:
- It officially and legally binds the company to clean up all contaminants and safely transport them out of the town.
- The rail company will pay the EPA back for cleaning services it and state authorities will do in the disaster zone.
- Norfolk Southern also must participate in public meetings when the EPA asks, and the agency will review the company’s cleanup plans. If it fails to comply, Norfolk Southern is on the hook for triple the cost of the damages that the EPA pays to clean up.
"But let me be also crystal clear: Norfolk Southern will pay for cleaning up the mess that they created and trauma they inflicted on this community and impacted Beaver County residents," said Michael Regan, the EPA administrator.
Both governors, a Republican and Democrat, say the cleanup and holding Norfolk Southern accountable is a bipartisan effort and that petty politics won’t fix people’s problems.
"The concerns are long-term concerns. As I talked to people today, it wasn’t just 'I’m concerned about this today.' But the concern was how is it gonna be in a year, how’s my water gonna be in a year, how’s it gonna be in two years," DeWine said.
Scripps News asked both governors if the rail company executives have done anything to inspire their confidence.
SCRIPPS NEWS' JOHN MONE: Gov. Shapiro, you’ve been pretty clear. You characterized Norfolk Southern’s response as inadequate. This is a question for both of you: Have the executives of the company said anything going forward that leads you to believe that they will abide and not have to be compelled to do the right thing?
GOV. JOSH SHAPIRO: I think the fact that administrator Regan has used his authority under CERCLA to hold them accountable and make them pay demonstrates some real leadership by the federal government. It is my view that Norfolk Southern wasn’t going to do this out of the goodness of their own heart. There’s not a lot of goodness in there. They needed to be compelled to act, and that’s exactly what administrator Regan and the federal government combined with the authorities in both Ohio and Pennsylvania are taking steps to do, and that is to hold them accountable.
A new executive order ensures Norfolk Southern will be accountable for cleanup costs in the community.
This evaluation process is expected to last for a minimum of three years.
Residents claim Norfolk Southern should be held liable for property damage and health issues, but the railroad says it's protected under federal law.
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