Tuesday 4 July 2023

Ohio Governor Asks Biden For East Palestine Disaster Declaration 150 Days After Train Derailment

 Ohio Governor Mike DeWine requested a major disaster declaration on Monday from the Biden administration for East Palestine, 150 days after the Norfolk Southern train derailment.

In a letter to President Joe Biden, the state’s Republican governor explained that the deadline to make the request was Monday, after the Federal Emergency Management Agency refused to grant an extension, while the state “continues to evaluate long term needs” stemming from the early February train incident. DeWine added that assistance to the community from Norfolk Southern, which faces litigation over the derailment and just announced last Friday that it would sue rail car owners over cleanup costs, is not guaranteed.

“The possibility remains that the voluntary support provided by Norfolk Southern could at some point in the future cease, and this Declaration is needed to ensure that the State and Federal government use all resources available to step in and provide the community with needed assistance,” DeWine wrote.

Recently released documents from the National Transportation Safety Board show the freight train derailed on February 3 while passing through the small town of East Palestine, a village near Ohio’s border with Pennsylvania, after a car’s wheel set fell off, according to The New York Times. Although no one was killed in the derailment, local residents were soon terrified by the health and environmental threats posed by the controlled burn of toxic chemicals that spilled out of tanker cars.

DeWine, who noted that officials had determined a “controlled release” would be the safest course of action meant to “avoid the dangers of explosion,” said that the clean-up of the site continues to this day, five months later.

“Residents continue to report medical conditions and are concerned that the air and water were impacted by the chemicals released during this incident,” the governor added. “This derailment and the subsequent controlled release were extraordinary events that continue to garner national media coverage.”

DeWine also said the state is still working to “identify current needs and evaluate the future impacts” the disaster will have on individuals and the East Palestine community.

“In addition to the physical and mental health impacts, there have been economic impacts,” the governor wrote. “Homeowners and business have seen property value decline and loss of business as people are hesitant to come into the community.”

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