'Full transparency is the only option': U.S. EPA Administrator issues orders for Norfolk Southern
U.S. EPA Director, Michael Regan has returned to East Palestine along with Ohio Governor, Mike DeWine, PA Governor, Josh Shapiro and Valley Congressman, Bill Johnson to once again update residents on the recent train derailment in the village.
According to a press release, the U.S. EPA had ordered Norfolk Southern to conduct "all necessary actions" associated with the cleanup from the train derailment.
The EPA is ordering Norfolk Southern to do the following:
- Identify and clean up contaminated soil and water sources
- 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.
Should Norfolk Southern fail to fulfill any of these orders, the U.S. EPA will immediately intervene, complete the necessary work followed by forcing Norfolk Southern to pay triple the cost.
Last Wednesday, 21 News reported that Norfolk Southern had chosen not to attend an informational session at East Palestine High School due to concerns for employees' safety; a decision which garnered criticism from local officials including Senator J.D. Vance and Ohio Governor, Mike DeWine.
With this order from the EPA, Norfolk Southern must attend all future events they are asked to.
"We will use our full enforcement authority and if Norfolk Southern decides that they don't want to follow through, this order gives us the ability to step in and do the work, simultaneously fine them up to $70,000 a day, and then when we go after them to recoup our costs, we can go after triple the amount that we had to put in," Regan said.
This order marks the transition from the "emergency phase" to the longer-term "remediation phase." To help implement this order, EPA will establish a "unified command structure" to coordinate cleanup-related efforts.
Governor DeWine tells local media outlets that during his visit to the village, he and Governor Shapiro drank the village's municipal water and assured residents that it is safe to drink.
"We know that because it has been tested, but we're going to continue to test. The Ohio EPA will continue to test once a week going forward, and those results will be published as soon as they come back," DeWine said.
DeWine also once again emphasized his call on Congress for stricter railroad regulations to ensure that communities are properly notified when trains carrying hazardous materials are passing through.
Governor Shapiro criticized Norfolk Southern, seconding Regan's comments regarding the U.S. EPA's orders to Norfolk Southern as well as criticizing them for spreading "inaccurate information."
"The combination of Norfolk Southern's corporate greed, incompetence and lack of care for [Darlington Township's] residents is absolutely unacceptable to me ... 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," Shapiro said.
When asked whether or not he would welcome President Biden into the village should he want to visit regarding the derailment, East Palestine Mayor, Trent Conaway said he would "never turn anybody away" and that the president is "more than welcome" to show up.
This comes after comments made Monday night during an interview with Jesse Walters of Fox News where Conaway said President Biden's visit and aid to Ukraine was "the biggest slap in the face" and that "he doesn't care about [East Palestine]."
"I was very frustrated last night, and I stand by those comments, but if he wants to come he's welcome," Mayor Conaway said.
Conaway described the situation as a "political pawn game" and that he doesn't want it to be politicized and just wants the village to go back to the way it once was.
"We don't want to have press conferences in our community center. We want to be having picnics here and go back to small town America," Conaway said.
Stay connected with 21 News both online and on air for the latest updates on the East Palestine train derailment.