Lodi News-Sentinel

Train company called incompeten­t as EPA takes over Ohio cleanup

- Jennifer A. Dlouhy

Federal and state officials on Tuesday cranked up the heat on Norfolk Southern Corp. for its handling of the fiery freight train derailment in Ohio, as federal authoritie­s took control of cleanup operations and two state governors raised the specter of prosecutio­ns in conjunctio­n with the disaster.

Under a formal order issued by the Environmen­tal Protection Agency, the company will be required to conduct cleanup operations in accordance with an EPA work plan and pay for the remediatio­n costs. The company has two days to respond to the directive, which marks the federal government’s strongest move yet to address the disaster.

“It is my view that Norfolk Southern wasn’t going to do this out of the goodness of their own heart. There’s not a lot of goodness in there,” Pennsylvan­ia Gov. Josh Shapiro said at a news conference. “They needed to be compelled to act.”

In an emailed statement Tuesday, Norfolk Southern said it is “committed to thoroughly and safely cleaning the site,” while “reimbursin­g residents for the disruption this has caused in their lives.”

“We are going to learn from this terrible accident and work with regulators and elected officials to improve railroad safety,” the company said.

Norfolk Southern has come under withering criticism for its management of the incident, which began when a freight train derailed near the Ohio-Pennsylvan­ia border on Feb. 3. After toxic chemicals including vinyl chloride were released at the site and local residents were briefly evacuated, there have been lingering complaints of animal deaths, headaches and other ailments.

Both Shapiro, a Democrat, and Ohio Republican Gov. Mike DeWine, said their state attorneys general are reviewing the matter, potentiall­y raising the prospect of criminal charges. DeWine said his attorney general “will take whatever action Ohio law allows him to take.” And Shapiro said Pennsylvan­ia’s Department of Environmen­tal Protection had sent a criminal referral to the state’s acting attorney general.

“In the face of Norfolk Southern’s arrogance and incompeten­ce, I want you to know that we are fighting back,” Shapiro said. “We stand with the good people of Pennsylvan­ia and Ohio, and we stand with them against this corporate greed and incompeten­ce.”

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