Governor Josh Shapiro of Pennsylvania (D-PA) traveled to East Palestine, Ohio on Tuesday to participate in a joint news conference with Ohio Governor Mike DeWine and EPA Administrator Michael Regan regarding ongoing concerns surrounding the recent derailment of a Norfolk Southern train. Midway through the press conference, Gov. Shapiro dropped the bombshell that he had made a criminal referral of the handling of the train derailment to Pennsylvania’s Attorney General.
Norfolk Southern’s overall response to the derailment of one of its trains transporting toxic chemicals on February 3rd has been “unacceptable,” according to Governor Shapiro, who promised to hold the company “accountable.”
Nothing can make up for the damage that’s been done by Norfolk Southern’s train derailment.
But what the people of Pennsylvania deserve now is accountability.
— Josh Shapiro (@JoshShapiroPA) February 21, 2023
“The combination of Norfolk Southern’s corporate greed, incompetence, and lack of care for our residents is absolutely unacceptable to me,” Shapiro stated during the Tuesday news conference. “I’ve been outspoken about the serious concerns about the company’s failed management of this crisis. They chose not to participate in the unified command, they gave us inaccurate information and conflicting modeling data, and they refused to explore or articulate alternative courses of action when we were dealing with the derailment in the early days.”
“In sum, Norfolk Southern injected unnecessary risk into this crisis and they created confusion in this process,” Shapiro added.
In their promises to the people affected by the train derailment, both DeWine and Shapiro agreed to stay for as long as it takes the nearby communities to recover.
The EPA has also vowed to hold Norfolk Southern accountable for the disaster by legally ordering the company to conduct all necessary actions associated with the cleanup from the train derailment in East Palestine.
As part of EPA’s legally binding order, Norfolk Southern will be required to:
- Identify and clean up contaminated soil and water resources.
- Reimburse EPA for cleaning services to be offered to residents and businesses to provide an additional layer of reassurance, which will be conducted by EPA staff and contractors.
- Attend and participate in public meetings at EPA’s request and post information online.
- Pay for EPA’s costs for work performed under this order.
Norfolk Southern will immediately be forced to pay triple the cost of any work it fails to perform as ordered by EPA if it fails to follow orders.
Following the company’s absence from last week’s community open house-style gathering with local, state, and federal agencies regarding the train derailment, Norfolk Southern President and CEO Alan H. Shaw released a statement on Monday, saying, “I want residents of East Palestine to know that Norfolk Southern will be in their community to help for as long as needed.”
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Kaitlin Housler is a reporter at The Ohio Star and The Star News Network.