Pa. senators hold hearing on East Palestine train derailment

BEAVER COUNTY, Pa. (WHTM) — As new information became available about the derailment of a toxic train in eastern Palestine, Ohio, federal investigators released a preliminary report claiming the train crew did not receive a critical warning about an overheating axle until shortly before dozens of train cars arrived from the tracks.

“I can tell you this much, this was 100 percent preventable,” said Jennifer Homendy, chair of the National Transportation Safety Board.

Pennsylvania state senators held a public hearing on Thursday, February 23, in Beaver County on the derailment near the Pennsylvania-Ohio border.

Both sides of the aisle sharply criticized Norfolk Southern.

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Senator Doug Mastriano held the hearing to listen to concerned residents who did not hold back. Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro is about to file a criminal referral to the Attorney General’s office.

It’s been three weeks since the accident, and according to residents living near the site of the derailment, nothing is getting better.

“When you’re living in pure panic and fear and agony, you just don’t know what to do,” said Lonni Miller, a concerned resident.

“We are to live in our house, be poisoned and wait?” asked Jeff Dilamone, another resident at the hearing.

Many local residents still fear toxic chemicals in the air and water and are begging authorities to do more.

“The general lack of support from our elected officials has been downright pathetic,” said a resident who asked not to be named.

Norfolk Southern’s CEO, who was invited to the hearing, was nowhere to be found, and executives took turns berating the company.

“Much is bought and paid for politicians who refuse to take the necessary steps to protect us,” said Senator Katie Muth (D).

Shapiro recently announced criminal proceedings had been launched against Norfolk Southern. The public prosecutor’s office ultimately decides whether charges will be filed or not.

The Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office released a statement saying it would act quickly to investigate the incident and would not hesitate to blame any company for environmental crimes across Pennsylvania.

“You would have to get it through a grand jury to get an indictment, and at that point there would be a criminal case,” said David Brooman, an environmental attorney at High Schwartz in Montgomery County.

Brooman says the attorney general’s office is likely to start subpoenas, but isn’t confident anyone from Norfolk Southern will be charged or even brought to justice.

Situations like this are often settled before a court hearing takes place, Brooman said. “I don’t think they turn into crimes, but you know, there are multiple environmental law violations, and those environmental laws are 25,000 per day per violation.”

If the attorney general’s office decides to proceed with the indictment, the process of holding Norfolk Southern accountable could take well over a year. Pa. senators hold hearing on East Palestine train derailment

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