Gov. Shapiro, EPA calls for accountability for train derailments

EAST PALESTINE, OH (WHTM) – Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro joined state and federal officials in Ohio on Tuesday in vowing to hold the Norfolk Southern railroad company accountable for the train derailment in eastern Palestine in early February.

The EPA announced a new order and gave the company 48 hours to respond. Shapiro said his government is considering legal action.

“Norfolk Southern’s combination of corporate greed, incompetence and a lack of care for our residents is absolutely unacceptable to me,” Shapiro said.

The governor didn’t mince his words as he condemned the train company over the toxic derailment disaster and accused the company of causing confusion and putting residents of both states at risk.

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“Given the arrogance and incompetence of Norfolk Southern, I want you to know that we are fighting back,” he said.

Shapiro added he is considering legal action.

“We have made a criminal referral to the acting Attorney General in Pennsylvania,” he announced Tuesday.

The application came from the Ministry of the Environment. Acting Attorney General Michelle Henry’s office said in a statement, “We … will act expeditiously to investigate this incident, gather the facts, and then evaluate the evidence to make a decision under Pennsylvania law.”

Full Opinion:

Our office monitored the train derailment in East Palestine and we are outraged on behalf of the residents who are suffering the consequences of this disaster. We have just received a criminal referral from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and will be acting quickly to investigate this incident, gather the facts, and then evaluate the evidence to make a decision under Pennsylvania law. Pennsylvanians have a constitutional right to clean air and water, and we will have no hesitation in holding anyone or any company responsible for environmental crimes in our Commonwealth.

Office of Acting Attorney General Michelle Henry

The US Environmental Protection Agency is also demanding accountability.

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“Norfolk Southern will pay to clean up the mess they caused,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan said.

Regan announced his agency’s new deal, which was signed Monday. Under the order, Norfolk Southern must clean up all contaminants in accordance with EPA standards, meet associated costs including EPA reimbursement, and attend public meetings to share information with the community.

“Full transparency is the only option,” Regan said.

Regan said the EPA will also review and approve Norfolk Southern’s work plan with input from state and local government. He said he is committed to enforcement.

“This order gives us the ability to step in and get the job done while still punishing them with a fine of up to $70,000 a day,” he explained.

Regan said if the EPA has to do the work, the agency will charge the company three times the cost of all the efforts.

Meanwhile, the cleanup and independent testing continues in both states.

“It’s the data coming out of Norfolk Southern that doesn’t match or meet our expectations,” Regan said.

Federal, state, and local agencies continue to test air quality and water. Regan said the EPA tested indoor air quality in over 500 homes.

Gov. Shapiro’s press secretary, Manuel Bonder, said in a statement that the announcement to allow residents to return home came after EPA data reviewed by the state Department of Environmental Protection and Public Health showed no dangerous air quality levels.

“Pennsylvania continues to see no air quality readings of concern,” Shapiro said Tuesday.

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Shapiro said the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection is testing water within a two-mile radius of the derailment.

“We should get the first round of test results in the coming days,” he said.

Shapiro said state authorities will continue to work until people are safe. The governor’s press secretary told abc27 Shapiro committed the DEP to conducting independent water tests for at least the next year.

“I want every Pennsylvanian who’s worried right now to know this: our government has your back,” Shapiro said.

abc27 reached out to Norfolk Southern for comment on the EPA’s order and Shapiro’s criminal referral announcement, but received no response. Gov. Shapiro, EPA calls for accountability for train derailments

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