In a letter to Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw, Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro expressed "serious concerns" over the company's handling of the Feb. 3 train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio—located less than a mile away from the Pennsylvania border.
Shapiro wrote that when the derailment occurred, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) weren't contacted immediately. Instead, state officials learned of the incident "independently," he said.
Shapiro goes on to say Norfolk Southern's handling of the initial response "put the safety of our first responders and residents at significant risk."
According to the governor, the company is accused of the following three things:
- Norfolk Southern failed to implement Unified Command, creating confusion and resulting in a general lack of awareness for first responders and emergency management of the tactics Norfolk Southern planned in response.
- Norfolk Southern gave inaccurate information and conflicting modeling about the impact of the controlled release that made protective action decision making more difficult in the immediate aftermath of the derailment.
- Norfolk Southern's unwillingness to explore or articulate alternate courses of action to their proposed vent and burn limited state and local leaders' ability to respond effectively.
"While I appreciate that responding to train derailments presents an array of complex challenges, failure to adhere to well-accepted standards of practice related to incident management and prioritizing an accelerated and arbitrary timeline to reopen the rail line injected unnecessary risk and created confusion in the process," Shapiro wrote. "You can be assured that Pennsylvania will hold Norfolk Southern Accountable for any and all impacts to our Commonwealth."
The governor said that the company's "opposition to modernized regulations" will require scrutiny and an investigation to prevent any accidents like the Feb. 3 derailment from happening again—and while the railroad industry regulation is mainly handled at the federal level, state officials plan to take direct action regarding the matter.
The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission has been tasked by the governor to review the rail company's conduct surrounding the derailment.
"As they proceed with their review and oversight responsibilities, I have pledged-offered the full cooperation of my Administration in order to help them facilitate holding your company accountable to Pennsylvanians," Shapiro said to Shaw in the letter.
CLICK HERE to read the full letter.
- What appears to be an overheated wheel bearing seen moments before East Palestine train derailment, NTSB says
- Norfolk Southern releases Remedial Action Work Plan for cleanup of East Palestine train derailment site
- Gov. DeWine says derailed Norfolk Southern train not categorized as carrying high hazardous materials
- Some residents in East Palestine worry about health after experiencing headaches, dizziness
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