Photo of the crash site in East Palestine, Ohio. Photo: NTSB/Handout via Xinhua
Photo of the crash site in East Palestine, Ohio. Photo: NTSB/Handout via Xinhua

Gov. Shapiro to probe Norfolk Southern over train derailment in Ohio

Gov. Josh Shapiro made a criminal referral to the commonwealth’s acting Attorney General to “determine whether or not there was criminal activity,” he told NPR.


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May 25th, 2023


Norfolk Southern Railway, the railroad company responsible for the train that tragically derailed in East Palestine, Ohio, will possibly need to answer to Pennsylvania after Governor Josh Shapiro made a criminal referral on Wednesday, Feb. 2, according to NPR

Shapiro appears to have assumed an aggressive posture against Norfolk Southern, calling out their “arrogance and incompetence” on NPR over the derailment in East Palestine, a Northeastern region that shares a border with Pittsburgh, PA. 

"We made a criminal referral to the office of attorney general. They'll determine whether or not there was criminal activity," Shapiro told Leila Fadel, adding the railroad company did not approach Pennsylvania to address the waste spillage.

 "What I know is that Norfolk Southern is governed every day, not by caring about the communities that they send their trains through, but by corporate greed,” Shapiro continued. 

After a transport cargo train derailed in the small town of East Palestine, a dark plume cast a long shadow in the sky, provoking deep concern among residents who have reported seeing dead animals both on land and in water. 

The Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, said residents could safely return to their homes two days after the incident. 

PA’s acting Attorney General Michelle Henry told CBS News her office was “outraged on behalf of the residents who have suffered the consequences of this catastrophe.” 

“We have now received a criminal referral from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and are already acting quickly to investigate this incident, gather the facts in evidence, and then, of course, we're going to evaluate the facts, the evidence, and make a determination under Pennsylvania law," Henry told CBS. 

Henry, moving forward with the administration’s probe, will need to prove the derailment — and the resulting toxic waste — caused harm to Pennsylvanians to pursue legal recourse within the boundaries of commonwealth law, or jurisdiction. 

Henry has not confirmed whether there is evidence of harm in Pennsylvania but said she would like to hear from residents in the commonwealth who suffered consequences from the derailment. 

Shapiro, in turn, displayed a more assertive front, pledging to CBS that the administration “stands with you.” 

“We will make sure you have the information and knowledge you need to keep your family safe, and we will hold Norfolk Southern accountable for their conduct,” he continued.

Last week, Shapiro sent a letter blasting Norfolk Southern for a “general lack of awareness” in responding to the immediate aftermath of the derailment, including a lack of communication between the railroad company, the Department of Environmental Protection, and Pennsylvania Emergency Management. 

Shapiro, in the letter, went on to criticize Norfolk Southern for not advising state agencies that the shipment contained chemical and potentially hazardous materials, compounded by frustrations over Norfolk Southern’s unwillingness to cooperate with PA. 

“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 confusion in the process,” the letter penned. 

In a statement to NPR on Tuesday, Norfolk Southern said they were committed to addressing the site and reimbursing the residents of East Palestine. 

"We recognize that we have a responsibility, and we have committed to doing what's right for the residents of East Palestine," the railroad said. 

"We are committed to thoroughly and safely cleaning the site, and we are reimbursing residents for the disruption this has caused in their lives."

Norfolk Southern, a company with an estimated worth of $50 billion, offered East Palestine residents $25,000, which averages to about $5 per resident. 


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