September 22, 2023

Biden holding Norfolk Southern accountable for East Palestine recovery


President Joe Biden has issued an executive order designed to ensure that Norfolk Southern (NYSE: NSC) “continues meeting its obligations to the community” following the Feb. 3 derailment of an NS train in East Palestine, Ohio.

The Wednesday order also directs the Federal Emergency Management Agency to appoint a federal disaster recovery coordinator to oversee long-term public and private recovery efforts.

East Palestine and surrounding communities in Ohio and Pennsylvania have been impacted by the Feb. 3 derailment, which was followed by the venting of rail cars carrying vinyl chloride because of concerns that those rail cars could explode.

Biden had gotten flak by some Republicans for not visiting East Palestine immediately following the incident, according to news reports

“As part of his commitment to the people of East Palestine, President Biden is today issuing an Executive Order to ensure that Norfolk Southern continues to be held accountable for this disaster, to address any of the disaster’s long-term effects, and to ensure federal assistance is available to affected communities should needs develop that are not met by Norfolk Southern,” Wednesday’s announcement said.

Biden also directed several federal agencies to provide reports pertaining to their efforts in restoring the East Palestine community. 

The order directs the Environmental Protection Agency to provide a report on the status of air, soil and water monitoring, as well as determine whether NS has been complying with federal orders in response to the derailment. It also charges EPA to continue to direct the removal of contaminated soils and wastewater from the derailment site and continue monitoring the environment for any adverse effects or changes.

Biden wants the Health and Human Services Administration (HHS) to monitor public health consequences as well as provide an update on public health testing. He also directed HHS and EPA to evaluate whether a public health emergency should be declared if HHS determines that medical conditions have developed as a result of the derailment.

Biden also wants the Department of Transportation and the National Transportation Safety Board to provide what follow-up actions it plans to pursue to ensure accountability. 

In response to the order, NS said in a release: “From the beginning, Norfolk Southern has committed to making it right in East Palestine and covering all costs associated with the clean-up. In the months since, we have made significant progress, keeping our promises to safely and thoroughly clean the derailment site, support the needs of the community, and invest in its future. We remain committed to East Palestine today, and into the future, and will continue to work closely with federal, state, and local leaders.”

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