ICYMI: Governor Shapiro Takes Steps to Hold Norfolk Southern Accountable and Keep Pennsylvanians Safe After East Palestine Train Derailment
February 17, 2023
“As we work to learn more about this incident and hold Norfolk Southern accountable, the Commonwealth will also lead the way so that Pennsylvanians are aware of and protected from any threats to their safety and resources that may arise.”
Harrisburg, PA – This week, Governor Josh Shapiro sent a letter to Norfolk Southern Corporation CEO Alan Shaw expressing serious concerns regarding the company’s management of the February 3 train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio after meeting with Beaver County Commissioners and local elected officials. In the letter, Governor Shapiro told Shaw: “You can be assured that Pennsylvania will hold Norfolk Southern accountable for any and all impacts to our Commonwealth.”
On Thursday, the Shapiro Administration announced that the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) will conduct independent water sampling to closely monitor water contamination risks related to the train derailment. For more information on DEP’s sampling efforts and other details about the derailment, click here.
Governor Shapiro also joined The Lead with Jake Tapper on CNN this week to discuss his letter to Shaw and his Administration’s step to conduct independent water testing to support Pennsylvania residents. Watch the interview here.
Read what people are saying about Governor Shapiro’s response.
The Washington Post: Pa. governor accuses train company of mishandling Ohio derailment
Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro (D) chastised Norfolk Southern for putting emergency responders and community members at risk by not working with state leaders two weeks ago when one of the company’s trains derailed, unleashing highly toxic chemicals and causing the train cars to catch fire, displacing residents.
Shapiro’s letter to Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw is the most prominent finger-pointing since the Feb. 3 derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, which is near the Pennsylvania border. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) said Tuesday that additional federal assistance wouldn’t be needed, despite President Biden offering help. […]
But Shapiro in his letter wrote that Pennsylvania’s environmental and emergency management departments found that Norfolk Southern did three things that “put the safety of our first responders and residents at significant risk.”
He started by saying that Norfolk Southern staff made their own plan without coordinating with state agencies, forcing those agencies to react without knowing the plan’s details.
He then wrote that Norfolk Southern “gave inaccurate information and conflicting modeling about the impact” of the controlled release of chemicals, which made it harder for the state to protect people in the immediate aftermath of the derailment.
Beaver County Times: Gov. Shapiro says Norfolk Southern had ‘poor handling’ of derailment response in open letter
After meeting with local emergency management officials, Gov. Josh Shapiro has released an open letter criticizing Norfolk Southern Railway for their response to the incident.
According to the letter, Shapiro met with local politicians and Beaver County’s emergency management officials in Ambridge Tuesday afternoon to discuss the Norfolk Southern Railway’s “poor handling of this incident.” Officials said Norfolk Southern personnel separated themselves from local agencies at the scene to act independently, which caused the Unified Command to experience issues throughout the emergency response.
“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 said. “You can be assured that Pennsylvania will hold Norfolk Southern accountable for any and all impacts to our Commonwealth.”
Pennsylvania Capital-Star: Shapiro says Norfolk Southern’s response to East Palestine derailment and fire put first responders and residents at ‘significant risk’
Gov. Josh Shapiro released a strongly worded letter to the president of Norfolk Southern on Tuesday, criticizing the railroad’s unilateral decision-making in the aftermath of the Feb. 3 derailment of a train loaded with hazardous chemicals in East Palestine, Ohio.
Shapiro’s letter to Norfolk Southern President and CEO Alan Shaw followed a meeting with elected officials and emergency management officials in Beaver County. The derailment happened a quarter-mile from Pennsylvania’s border with Ohio. […]
Shapiro said that while the railroad industry is primarily regulated by the federal government, he is calling on the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, which is charged with overseeing railroads in Pennsylvania, to review Norfolk Southern’s conduct.
“Like me, members of our state legislative delegation are troubled by the conduct of Norfolk Southern during this incident. As they proceed with their review and oversight responsibilities, I have pledged the full cooperation of my administration in order to help them facilitate holding your company accountable to Pennsylvanians,” Shapiro wrote.
WESA: Shapiro rips train company for prioritizing track reopening over ‘safer’ approach after derailment
Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro sent a scathing letter to the president and CEO of Norfolk Southern on Tuesday, calling out the company for making emergency management decisions without consulting state and local leaders and for prioritizing its railroad operations over “a safer overall approach” for local residents and the environment, after a train derailment near East Palestine, Ohio last week.
The derailment last week led to the emergency evacuation of thousands of people in Ohio and a couple dozen in Pennsylvania and has led to widespread concern about the potential contamination of water, soil and air near the derailment.
In the letter, Shapiro said he was calling on the Public Utilities Commission to investigate Norfolk Southern’s response and that he had already discussed the issue with President Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg, the Secretary of Transportation. Shapiro said he was pushing for additional oversight and regulations at the state and federal level. Shapiro accused Norfolk Southern of pursuing “an accelerated and arbitrary timeline to reopen the rail line” that created “unnecessary risk” and confusion.
Yahoo! News: Federal officials vow to hold railroad responsible for toxic Ohio train derailment
While the cause of the derailment and the extent of the chemicals’ spread is still being investigated, Norfolk Southern’s response in the immediate aftermath is being criticized for allegedly prioritizing an expedient reopening of the railway over the well-being of area residents.
On Tuesday, Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro said the railroad was unwilling to explore alternative courses of action, “including some that may have kept the rail line closed longer but could have resulted in a safer overall approach for first responders, residents and the environment.” That came after the EPA sent a letter to Norfolk Southern saying the company had failed to properly dispose of contaminated soil at the crash site in its effort to get the railway reopened.
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: Shapiro criticizes Norfolk Southern’s emergency response to Ohio train derailment
Gov. Josh Shapiro condemned train company Norfolk Southern in a letter this week, alleging the company failed to immediately contact the state after a train derailment near the Pennsylvania-Ohio border on Feb. 3.
Shapiro said his office plans to take direct action against the company, and added the state legislature has interest in reviewing the derailment for potential action as well. […]
He was particularly critical of information provided about the controlled explosion on Feb. 6. He said the company didn’t forewarn agencies initially of their intention to vent and burn all five rail cars that contained vinyl chloride, or inform local and state authorities how many rail cars contributed the hazardous chemical.
“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 timely to reopen the rail line injected unnecessary risk and created confusion in the process,” wrote Shapiro.
Pennsylvania Capital-Star: Pa. officials vow to ‘hold this railroad accountable,’ announce monthly water testing
On Thursday afternoon, Gov. Josh Shapiro announced that the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection will conduct independent water sampling to monitor water contamination risks related to the train derailment.
Additionally, DEP will assist public water supplies with concerns in evaluating their water source at the Beaver Falls Municipal Authority’s surface water intake on the Beaver River.
In a statement, Shapiro said tests will continue monthly to monitor any long-term impacts. DEP will take independent samples from Norfolk Southern sampling sites for examination by the DEP Bureau of Laboratories. The department also plans to take water samples in Pennsylvania within a 2-mile radius of the derailment site.
Pittsburgh Business-Times: Shapiro orders water testing after Ohio derailment
Gov. Josh Shapiro has ordered independent testing of water in the Beaver River following the aftermath of the Feb. 3 Norfolk Southern derailment that led to a release of hazardous chemicals.
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection will be sampling water for potential contamination in Beaver County following the derailment just across the border in East Palestine, Ohio. It’s also helping with testing surface water at a Beaver Falls Municipal Authority intake at the Beaver River that is 11 miles away from the site of the derailment.