Republican lawmakers in Michigan have sounded the alarm on a massive Ford battery plant proposal – backed by Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer – that would send $15 million to Norfolk Southern, the railway company at the center of the train derailment and chemical burn in East Palestine, Ohio.
The Lansing lawmakers are being asked to allot an additional $750 million for a proposed Ford battery plant in the Great Lakes State, which has already received more than $1 billion in incentives and tax cuts. According to Republican state Rep. James DeSana, as much as $15 million of the new proposal “could be earmarked to help the troubled Norfolk Southern Railway Company expand its footprint in Michigan,” The Midwesterner reported.
“It’s always a bad idea to expect taxpayers to foot the bill for corporate welfare projects – but this proposal is particularly egregious,” DeSana said in a statement. “Norfolk Southern has had two dangerous train derailments in the Midwest this month – one in Michigan and another that leaked hazardous chemicals that are still causing serious concerns for families in Ohio. Yet Gov. Whitmer is asking us to ignore all that and hand over taxpayer dollars to help Norfolk Southern grow in Michigan.”
Whitmer pushed for the electric vehicle battery plant to come to her state to secure more jobs for Michiganders, but the proposal previously generated controversy since Ford is partnering with a Chinese company on the plant. The request for an additional $750 million, including the $15 million earmark for Norfolk Southern, needs approval from the state’s Democrat-controlled legislature.
The $15 million to Norfolk Southern would reportedly go toward rail improvements. Whitmer’s office did not respond to a Daily Wire request for comment on the proposal, but the Democratic governor responded to questions about the issue on Thursday, claiming the $15 million isn’t “company specific.”
“We’ve got to build out the infrastructure around it, from roads to a rail hub to water infrastructure and utilities, and so that’s what these resources are for,” Whitmer said, according to Gongwer. “So it’s not company specific, it’s about building out a community that’s very excited about this big investment.”
Controversy has rocked the $51 billion Atlanta-based railway company in recent weeks. After the derailment in East Palestine, Norfolk Southern conducted a “controlled burn” of the volatile chemical vinyl chloride to decrease the risk of an explosion.
Soon after the controlled burn, residents of the eastern Ohio town described physical symptoms they believe resulted from the fire, including headaches, sore throats, and digestive issues — not to mention the lingering taste of chemicals, The Daily Wire reported.
After the February 3 derailment in Ohio, another company train derailed just outside of Detroit on February 16, although no hazardous materials were on board any of those cars.
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The railway company has taken full responsibility for the disaster, pledging to clean up the environmental mess in East Palestine and hiring experts to test the quality of the town’s water and air, but that’s not enough for some Michigan Republicans.
“Until a full investigation of the Norfolk Southern derailments in Ohio and Michigan is complete, I can’t believe we’re even discussing appropriating $15,000,000 to expand their operations in Michigan,” state Rep. Andrew Fink (R) told The Midwesterner.
Brandon Drey contributed to this report.
This story has been updated to include a comment from Gov. Whitmer.