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EPA Hits Norfolk Southern With Cleanup Demands in East Palestine

AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan said Tuesday that the federal reaction to the train derailment was transitioning "from the emergency response phase" to "the cleanup phase" while delivering an update in East Palestine, Ohio.


Regan noted that "the way of life, the sense of comfort that comes from living in a community like East Palestine" was lost as a result of the derailment and spill of chemicals in a "traumatic" experience for residents. "No matter how much data we collect or provide, it will not be enough to completely reassure everybody," Regan admitted.

Calling East Palestine "the backbone of this country," Regan pledged that the Biden administration — now that it's on the scene and involved — will "work together day by day" with state and local officials to ensure the community "feels at home once again" and said federal officials were "not going to leave this community behind."

However, as RNC chairwoman Ronna McDaniel pointed out on Tuesday, the Biden administration's response to the derailment and chemical spill has not been what it could be.

And, as Townhall reported earlier, the mayor of East Palestine did not take President Biden's surprise trip to Ukraine lying down, calling it "the biggest slap in the face" to his community that "tells you right now that he doesn't care about us."


Turning to Norfolk Southern, whose rail cars derailed and leaked toxic compounds in East Palestine, Regan said on Tuesday that the company "will pay for cleaning up the mess that they created and the trauma that they inflicted on this community."

To that end, Regan said the EPA is ordering Norfolk Southern to "clean up all contamination in soil and water" and transport it to appropriate disposal locations, including debris and chemicals seen in waterways and the soil in and around the crash site.

In addition, Biden's EPA is requiring Norfolk Southern to "reimburse EPA for cleaning services that will be offered to provide an additional layer of assurance" to be conducted by EPA staff and contractors. Norfolk Southern is also now mandated to "attend and participate in public meetings at EPA's request" in order to share information with the public. "Full transparency is the only option," Regan said.

Once Norfolk Southern develops a work plan to meet the EPA's requirements, the Biden administration will review it and consult with state and local officials before signing off on the plan. If Norfolk Southern "fails to complete any action ordered by EPA, the agency will immediately step in, conduct the work ourselves, and force Norfolk Southern to pay triple in cost," Regan threatened. 


The EPA administrator acknowledged that the federal order "cannot undo the nightmare that families in this town have been living with" but claimed "it will begin to deliver much-needed justice for the pain that Norfolk Southern has caused."

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine (R) also spoke at the press conference and announced that a promised free clinic was opened on Tuesday afternoon to assist residents with medical questions and necessary treatments in response to concerns from the community. 

DeWine said that water testing by the Ohio EPA would be ongoing before reiterating that the "village water is safe." Still, DeWine explained the testing would be conducted on a weekly basis with results made available to the public. Private wells will also be tested by state officials, DeWine added. 

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