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EPA, USDOT Hold Norfolk Southern Accountable for Ohio Train Derailment

Mary Kennedy
By  Mary Kennedy , DTN Basis Analyst
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Pictured is EPA Administrator Michael Regan visiting the East Palestine, Ohio, derailment site and promising residents the EPA will be there until the site is 100% cleaned up. (Photo from EPA Twitter account)

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday ordered Norfolk Southern to clean up all remnants of the recent Ohio train derailment.

On Feb. 10, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Michael Regan told MSNBC, "Let me be clear, we are with the community, and we are going to hold Norfolk Southern accountable and we will be here until this problem is cleaned up."

On Feb. 16, Regan traveled to East Palestine, Ohio, visiting residents and the derailment site. "Today, I visited the site of the train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio -- a terrible incident that has rightfully shaken this community to its core. But I want residents to know: EPA will be here as long as it takes the ensure the health and safety of this community," said Regan on his Twitter page.

On Feb. 21, the EPA in a news release said it has ordered Norfolk Southern to conduct all necessary actions associated with the cleanup from the East Palestine, Ohio, train derailment. 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.

"The Norfolk Southern train derailment has upended the lives of East Palestine families, and EPA's order will ensure the company is held accountable for jeopardizing the health and safety of this community," said Regan.

"Let me be clear: Norfolk Southern will pay for cleaning up the mess they created and for the trauma they've inflicted on this community," Regan said. "I'm deeply grateful to the emergency responders, including EPA personnel, who've been on the ground since day one and ensured there was no loss of life as a result of this disaster. As we transition from emergency response, EPA will continue to coordinate closely with our local, state, and federal partners through a whole-of-government approach to support the East Palestine community during the remediation phase. To the people of East Palestine, EPA stands with you now and for as long as it may take."


On Feb. 20, Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg sent Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw a letter (…)stating: "I am writing to emphasize the urgent need for Norfolk Southern to demonstrate unequivocal support for the people of East Palestine and the surrounding areas, and to be a part of needed safety improvements across the industry. You have previously indicated to me that you are committed to meeting your responsibilities to this community, but it is clear that area residents are not satisfied with the information, presence, and support they are getting from Norfolk Southern in the aftermath and recovery. It is imperative that your company be unambiguous and forthright in its commitment to take care of the residents -- now and in the future."

On Feb. 21, the U.S. DOT on their website posted a "Fact Sheet: Steps Forward on Freight Rail Industry Safety & Accountability." (…)

"Profit and expediency must never outweigh the safety of the American people," said Buttigieg. "We at USDOT are doing everything in our power to improve rail safety, and we insist that the rail industry do the same -- while inviting Congress to work with us to raise the bar."

On Feb. 17, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, noted on the committee website that she sent a letter to seven of the largest railroad company CEOs, requesting detailed information and documents about safety practices involved in rail transportation of hazardous materials by March 17, 2023. The letter went to Norfolk Southern, Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF), Canadian National, Canadian Pacific, CSX, Kansas City Southern, and Union Pacific. (…)


Norfolk Southern states on their website that "Team members remain on scene in East Palestine. In addition to working closely with first responders, we are coordinating with federal, state and local agencies to provide up-to-date information." (…)

On Feb. 21, Association of American Railroads (AAR) President and CEO Ian Jefferies issued the following statement in response to the U.S. Department of Transportation's Tuesday release calling for certain rail safety and operational measures in response to the recent accident in East Palestine, Ohio.

"The NTSB's independent investigators continue their work to identify the accident's root cause and contributing factors. That investigation must continue unimpeded by politics and speculation so NTSB's findings can guide what additional measures may have prevented this accident.

"All stakeholders -- railroads along with federal, state and local officials -- must work to restore the public's trust in the safety and security of our communities. We can only do that by letting the facts drive the post-accident response. At this time, the focus must be on the most pressing issue at hand -- ensuring the community of East Palestine has all the support they need as it moves forward," said Jefferies.

Link to EPA and all current and past info/news releases on the East Palestine, Ohio train derailment:….

U.S. Department of Transportation Fact Sheet: Steps Forward on Freight Rail Industry Safety & Accountability:….

DTN story "Rail Safety Scrutinized After Ohio Derailment Disaster":….

AAR statement:….

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