Gov. Mike DeWine (R) on Monday urged President Joe Biden to issue a disaster declaration in Ohio over the violent train derailment in eastern Palestine earlier in the year.
In a letter to Biden This week, DeWine said there were “no unmet needs” reported to the state at this time due to railroad giant Norfolk Southern’s “voluntary action.”
“There remains a possibility that volunteer support from Norfolk Southern could be discontinued at some point in the future and this declaration is necessary to ensure that the state and federal government use all available resources to step in and provide the community with the assistance it needs.” the governor added.
For example, if the company turns out not to be liable for damages in the city, or if new leadership steps in and finds they no longer need to provide assistance in the area, the state would have to act, DeWine warned.
A Norfolk Southern train carrying cargo, including tons of hazardous materials, from Madison, Illinois to Conway, Pennsylvania derailed in the town near the Ohio-Pennsylvania border on February 3.
Days after the derailment, authorities conducted a “controlled burn” of vinyl chloride, releasing toxic chemicals into the air, due to the possibility of a “catastrophic tanker breakdown that could cause an explosion carrying potentially deadly shrapnel up to could fly a mile away.” ” They had previously evacuated everyone within a mile of the site.
Residents were allowed to return to their homes until February 8.
But critics, including Pennsylvania Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro, condemned Norfolk Southern at the time for poor management of the derailment and failure to explore alternatives to burning toxic chemicals.
The company has also been battling stricter safety regulations for years, Lever said reported.
DeWine said clean-up operations at the site are still ongoing while residents are still contacting authorities over health concerns related to the incident. Also, the long-term health effects of the event are unknown, he said, and many seemed unsure how to proceed.
“Nearby residents continue to report health concerns and concern that air and water have been affected by the chemicals released in this incident,” he wrote.
DeWine also cited the economic impact of the derailment.
“Homeowners and businesses have seen declines in property values and business losses as people hesitate to come to the community,” he wrote.
The National Transportation Safety Board launched a special investigation in Norfolk Southern in March after a series of accidents, including the East Palestine derailment.
The NTSB chairman announced that hours of footage that could have shed light on the cause of the derailment was automatically deleted after the train was “returned to service immediately after the accident.”
The Justice Department has sued the rail giant over the environmental damage caused by the train disaster.