The decade's most triggering comedy
Pennsylvania Democratic Gov. Governor Josh Shapiro announced on Wednesday that his office made a criminal referral over a lack of cooperation from Norfolk Southern, the company at the center of the train derailment and subsequent chemical fallout in East Palestine, Ohio.
Local and state authorities previously evacuated all residents within one mile of the February 3 derailment and started a controlled burn of industrial chemicals on the vehicle to decrease the risk of an explosion, which could have sent shrapnel throughout the small town. Vinyl chloride, a known human carcinogen used to manufacture PVC, was emitted from five train cars in the form of massive plumes of dark smoke visible throughout eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania.
Shapiro remarked during an interview with NPR that executives from Norfolk Southern have demonstrated “arrogance and incompetence” in the weeks after the train derailment. “We made a criminal referral to the office of attorney general. They’ll determine whether or not there was criminal activity,” he said. “What I know is that Norfolk Southern is governed every day, not by caring about the communities that they send their trains through, but by corporate greed.”
Shapiro, inaugurated for his first term last month, previously said that Norfolk Southern attempted to silo authorities from Ohio and Pennsylvania into conducting the controlled burn of industrial chemicals so that the company could more promptly open the railroad. Norfolk Southern said in a statement to NPR that it is “committed to thoroughly and safely cleaning the site” and will reimburse “residents for the disruption this has caused in their lives.”
The EPA ordered Norfolk Southern earlier this week to handle the cleanup of contaminated soil and water, reimburse the EPA for cleaning services that will be offered to residents and businesses, and attend public meetings to update residents on the cleanup process. The agency also threatened to “immediately step in, conduct the necessary work, and then seek to compel Norfolk Southern to pay triple the cost” if the company does not fulfill its responsibilities.
Shapiro likewise contended that Norfolk Southern would not “do this on their own” if they had not been compelled by regulators, adding that the company has “given the middle finger to the good people of Pennsylvania and Ohio by failing to show up at community meetings, by really insulting the community with a lackluster investment in their recovery.” Representatives of the company indeed backed out of a recent town hall meeting in East Palestine hours before the event was slated to begin.
State and federal officials have insisted that air and water quality in East Palestine were unaffected by the incident, even as a team of Daily Wire journalists who visited East Palestine last week reported a lingering smell in the air, an oily chemical sheen in local creeks and rivers, and symptoms such as sore throats and headaches merely from spending time in the small community. Shapiro told NPR that tests of municipal water supplies and wells have not shown any “concerning readings” of hazardous chemicals and affirmed that officials will continue to test “for months and months and months, if not years.”