Ohio train derailment: Biden administration to appoint recovery coordinator

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In response to the Norfolk Southern train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, on 3 February 2023, US President Joe Biden has taken action as the White House announced an executive order directing the appointment of a federal disaster recovery coordinator. However, a major disaster was not declared.

Ohio train derailment sparks federal involvement

The federal coordinator is set to be named within the coming days.

Their role will involve conducting a comprehensive assessment of any unmet needs which Norfolk Southern has not addressed.

These needs should qualify for federal assistance.

The incident saw the train catch fire and release over a million gallons of hazardous materials.

This accident has heightened concerns about rail safety in the United States.

It has also led to calls for reforms in Congress.

The US Justice Department and the state of Ohio are seeking to recoup costs from Norfolk Southern tied to the accident.

Norfolk Southern’s commitment and upcoming proceedings

Norfolk Southern expressed its commitment to addressing the aftermath of the incident.

On Wednesday, it said it: “has committed to making it right in East Palestine and covering all costs associated with the clean-up.”

To date, the company has set aside $803 million for the derailment.

Despite the immediate response, Ohio’s request for a major disaster declaration remains pending. It could be approved in the future.

When contacted for a comment on Biden’s executive order, a spokesman for Ohio Governor Mike DeWine stated that officials were in the process of reviewing it.

Ohio Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown commented on the order, calling it: “an overdue but welcomed step.”

Recently, the Federal Railroad Administration highlighted the need for “significant improvements” in Norfolk Southern’s safety culture.

They also revealed that they are contemplating enforcement actions on various issues, including track maintenance and repair practices.

Earlier in May, rail safety legislation was approved by a U.S. Senate panel. However, further proceedings have been put on hold.

Norfolk Southern has initiated a compensation program for homeowners in East Palestine who sold properties at reduced values post the derailment.

They also support addressing potential long-term health risks through measures such as a medical compensation fund and a program for safeguarding East Palestine’s drinking water.

A hearing on the aftermath of the derailment, including a statement from Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw, is scheduled for Friday in East Palestine.

IFSJ Comment

The Norfolk Southern derailment in Ohio draws attention to the critical aspects of rail safety, environmental protection, and corporate responsibility.

With the release of hazardous materials causing significant environmental and health concerns, the call for a comprehensive assessment signifies the gravity of the situation.

It also underscores the importance of proactive measures and collaboration between corporate entities, state officials, and the federal government.

The incident serves as a poignant reminder of the delicate balance between industrial progress and safety.

It is hoped that the collaborative efforts will pave the way for more robust safety measures and swift remedial actions in the event of such incidents in the future.

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