EPA will take control of the East Palestine train derailment cleanup In East Palestine, Ohio, federal environmental regulators have taken charge of the cleanup from the train derailment and chemical burn, and ordered Norfolk Southern to foot the bill.

EPA will take control of the East Palestine train derailment cleanup

EPA will take control of the East Palestine train derailment cleanup

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In East Palestine, Ohio, federal environmental regulators have taken charge of the cleanup from the train derailment and chemical burn, and ordered Norfolk Southern to foot the bill.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Is East Palestine, Ohio, getting the help that it needs? Two weeks ago, of course, a train carrying toxic chemicals derailed near the Ohio-Pennsylvania border, and people have reported trouble ever since, which Reid Frazier is covering for The Allegheny Front. Good morning.

REID FRAZIER, BYLINE: Hello.

INSKEEP: OK, so authorities say that they're trying to make sure that communities feel like home again. But what does that mean in this case?

FRAZIER: Well, the head of the EPA says it means there's a shift now from phase one, responding to the emergency, to phase two, which is cleanup. And that comes with an order from the EPA to make sure the cleanup is done properly. EPA Administrator Michael Regan said the agency is ordering Norfolk Southern to clean up. EPA will oversee it. The company will have to produce a work plan. EPA will then have to approve it. Regan says that Norfolk Southern will simply have to clean up the mess it's created.

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MICHAEL REGAN: If the company fails to complete any action ordered by EPA, the agency will immediately step in, conduct the work ourselves, and then force Norfolk Southern to pay triple in cost, according to the powers granted by my agency.

FRAZIER: And Regan says this won't undo the suffering that the folks there have been going through, but at least lets people know that authorities have heard them and are taking action.

INSKEEP: Listen, I know you're traveling around the region there, and there's more than one town that's affected, even though East Palestine is what is in the headlines, what we talk about. What is happening across the border in Pennsylvania?

FRAZIER: Yeah, well, as you probably know, this happened a few hundred yards from the border. And folks on the other side have said that they feel a little bit left out of the response. But Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro says that his state environmental agency is testing the air and that so far there have been no adverse results that they found and that they're - they've been conducting water tests, and those results will be coming in soon. And they'll continue to test. He did take some time to blast Norfolk Southern and says - and sort of applauded the EPA's step to enforce this order so it won't be able to walk away from its responsibilities.

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JOSH SHAPIRO: 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. They needed to be compelled to act.

FRAZIER: And that's what he says the EPA did in issuing this order.

INSKEEP: You know, we had Pete Buttigieg on the program yesterday. Of course, he's the secretary of transportation. He's pushing Norfolk Southern. This is in some ways a political show of force. But Buttigieg is arguing that it is time for better and different rail regulation. Where's that going?

FRAZIER: Well, there's a mounting call for Congress to act on this. Both Governor Shapiro of Pennsylvania and Ohio Governor Mike DeWine spoke about this. And DeWine says train safety really needs to have a higher priority now.

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MIKE DEWINE: These trains are longer and longer and longer. They're carrying toxic material. And if something happens and there's a derailment, we have what we have in East Palestine today. No other community should have to go through this.

FRAZIER: The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating this. And congressional leaders say the results of that investigation will determine the future course on what regulations might look like.

INSKEEP: Reid, thanks so much for the update. Really appreciate it.

FRAZIER: Thank you.

INSKEEP: Reid Frazier is with The Allegheny Front, a radio program that covers environmental issues.

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