(COLUMBUS, Ohio) — Ohio’s attorney general plans to announce the “next steps toward accountability” following last month’s toxic train derailment in East Palestine, his office said.
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost will detail the next steps regarding the Norfolk Southern Railway incident during a virtual press conference on Tuesday at 2 p.m. local time, according to his office.
About 50 cars of a freight train operated by Norfolk Southern derailed in a fiery crash on Feb. 3, sending toxic chemicals into the air, soil and creeks in the area. Amid concerns an explosion could take place, officials intentionally released and burned toxic vinyl chloride from five rail cars, sending a large ball of fire and a plume of black smoke filled with contaminants high into the sky.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has ordered Norfolk Southern to pay for the cleanup of the train wreck and chemical release.
The incident has caused lingering concerns and anxiety for residents of East Palestine, located near the Ohio-Pennsylvania border, as well as increased scrutiny of railway regulations and calls for reform.
Jennifer Homendy, chair of the National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating the incident, called the derailment “100% preventable.”
The NTSB announced last week it would launch a special investigation of Norfolk Southern’s safety and culture. The last time the NTSB made such a move was in 2014, when it investigated Metro-North for several significant accidents.
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Railroad Administration also announced last week that it will conduct a safety assessment of Norfolk Southern’s railway safety operations “following multiple safety incidents.”
Washington lawmakers grilled Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw on Thursday about the East Palestine disaster during their first hearing on railroad safety held in the wake of the incident.
On the eve of his Senate testimony, Shaw said the Atlanta-based company was committed to improve rail safety in a Washington Post op-ed.
“We are not waiting to act” while the NTSB investigates what happened in East Palestine and probing Norfolk Southern’s safety culture overall, Shaw wrote.
“We are firmly committed to the residents of East Palestine and the surrounding communities in Ohio and Pennsylvania,” Shaw continued. “Many of the people I’ve met are angry, scared and concerned about the future. I understand their skepticism that a big corporation such as Norfolk Southern will do the right thing, and we are determined to earn their trust.”
Norfolk Southern unveiled a safety plan last week based on preliminary findings of the NTSB’s ongoing investigation, which has so far indicated that an overheated wheel bearing likely caused the East Palestine derailment.
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