Feb 23, 2023
Michael Regan, Governors Visit East Palestine For Train Derailment Update Transcript
Top officials hold a press briefing in East Palestine, Ohio, to discuss the response to the train derailment and toxic chemical spill. Read the transcript here.
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Speaker 2 (00:28):
Okay, about five minutes out. Final sound check. As long as the flag doesn’t hit me in the head, we’re doing good. And we close the door up front. Please keep the door closed up front. We really wanted to keep it cool in here for everybody because we understand last time, no, no, no, then the whole thing becomes a sale. So we’re doing good here. Other than that, this is the last one. Your sound is good?
Speaker 1 (00:54):
No. I have to turn.
Speaker 2 (00:56):
Turning it around works better. Okay. Make sure yours is good and … all right.
Speaker 3 (01:04):
Hey girl, how are you?
Speaker 2 (05:03):
We have a few minutes. That’s about it. We’re running fairly on time and this is the last check. That’s it.
Speaker 4 (06:40):
Speaker 5 (06:40):
It used to be the longest district east to the Mississippi border, Pennsylvania west and Kentucky. Didn’t miss Indiana.
Speaker 6 (06:47):
Speaker 7 (06:48):
It gets covered a lot.
Speaker 6 (06:50):
Speaker 8 (06:50):
All right. We’re close. Hi guys. We’re on the show. Thank you so much for joining us. [inaudible 00:07:24].
Administrator Regan (10:39):
Good afternoon everyone, and thank you all for being here. It’s a privilege to be back in East Palestine. I want to begin by thanking our emergency responders, including EPA personnel who have been on the ground since day one and whose sole mission has been to keep this community safe. They have done a remarkable job, and we are truly indebted to these heroes.
I want to thank President Biden for offering up all federal resources to support East Palestine from the very beginning. I’m also grateful to my colleagues across the Federal Family, Health and Human Services, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the Department of Transportation.
I’d like to thank our state and local partners who are here with us today, and I’d like to start by thanking Governor DeWine. Thank you for the leading role Ohio has played throughout the emergency response phase. Governor Shapiro, thank you for your leadership and your partnership throughout this process. And Congressman Johnson, as a federal representative of this district, thank you for your partnership in making the district resources available to all of us.
I also want to thank Mayor Conway, who I met earlier today, who has been on the front lines of this since day one, working around the clock on behalf of the people of East Palestine. For more than two weeks, our teams across all levels of government, have worked hand in hand to respond to this emergency. And as we transition from the emergency response phase, which the state has led with support from the federal government to the cleanup phase, that level of coordination will continue to be essential to all of our successes.
Just two weeks ago, tragedy struck this small town, the small close-knit community, and thanks to the emergency responders, there was no loss of life. But the way of life, the sense of comfort that comes with living in a community like East Palestine has been shattered. What happened here is traumatic, but because this community is so resilient, we know that this community will bounce back. I recognize that no matter how much data we collect or provide, it will not be enough to completely reassure everybody. It may not be enough to restore the sense of safety and security that this community once had, but we are going to work together day by day for as long as it takes to make sure that this community feels at home once again.
This is my second time here visiting East Palestine and coming from eastern North Carolina. I can tell you firsthand is communities like this that represent the backbone of this country. As I told Ms. Carolyn Brown and Mr. Andris Baputnis, whom I had the privilege of meeting with earlier today. We’re not going to leave this community behind. We’re not going to leave this community to manage this aftermath alone. We are with you just as we did through the emergency response phase, EPA is going to continue to support this community throughout the cleanup phase, and we’re going to do so by continuing to work hand in hand with our state, local, and federal partners.
As we head into this next phase, state and local authorities will continue the water sampling efforts and EPA will continue indoor air screenings to residents within the evacuation zone. So far, we have tested more than 550 homes, but let me also be crystal clear. Norfolk Southern will pay for cleaning up the mess that they created and the trauma that they inflicted on this community and impacted Beaver County residents. Today, I’m announcing that EPA is ordering Norfolk Southern to conduct all necessary actions associated with the cleanup from the East Palestine train derailment.
Using EPA’s legal authorities, I am ordering Norfolk Southern to do the following. Norfolk Southern will clean up all contamination in soil and water and safely transport that contamination to the appropriate locations to ensure that residents are not impacted further, from the debris and the chemicals you see in the waterways to the soil in and around the crash site. This work will be done to EPA specifications.
Norfolk Southern will reimburse EPA for cleaning services that will be offered to all residents and businesses within the radius to provide an additional layer of reassurance, peace of mind. Those services will be conducted by EPA staff and contractors who have extensive expertise in conducting these types of cleanings. And Norfolk Southern will attend and participate in public meetings at EPAs request and share information with the public. Full transparency
Administrator Regan (16:00):
… Is the only option. And to ensure that this is done in a way that leaves this community whole again, EPA will review and approve Norfolk Southern’s work plan with state and local government input. The work plan will outline every single necessary step to clean up the environmental damage caused by the derailment, and I can assure you no details will be overlooked.
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 in accordance to the powers granted by my agency. In no way, shape, or form will Norfolk Southern get off the hook for the mess that they created. This order represents one of EPA’s strongest authorities to hold a company accountable for jeopardizing a community’s health and safety.
Folks, I know this order cannot undo the nightmare that families in this town have been living with, but it will begin to deliver much needed justice for the pain that Norfolk Southern has caused. I want the community to know that we have heard you and that we need to keep hearing from you. As much as our support on the ground will continue to be needed, we also need you. However long it takes, we’re going to work to earn your trust. There’s a long road ahead, but you will not have to walk that road alone. We’re going to take this journey for justice together.
And now you’ll hear from Governor DeWine.
Gov. DeWine (17:45):
Administrator, thank you very much.
Administrator Regan (17:47):
Gov. DeWine (17:47):
Thanks for being here.
Administrator Regan (17:48):
Gov. DeWine (17:53):
Mr. Administrator, thank you very much. When the train derailment occurred, the Ohio EPA, within a very short period of time that night, was on the scene and shortly thereafter, the US EPA was there as well. This has been a working partnership and I want to thank the administrator for this partnership. This is a partnership that will continue in the days and weeks and months going forward.
Today, at 12 noon, we opened up a clinic. This is a clinic that will be available to any resident. They can call and make an appointment. In fact, let me give you the numbers. 234-564 7755 or 234-564 7888. This is a clinic that anyone, free of charge, can go to. We’ve heard many, many concerns with residents, and this is really in response to the concerns that we have heard, that people want to be able to go someplace and get some answers about any kind of medical problem that they believe that they are in fact having.
I want to thank Wes Vins, the Health Commissioner for the work. This is really a joint effort, the Ohio Department of Health, the Columbiana Department of Health, the Columbiana County Community Action Agency, Columbiana County Mental Health and Recovery, the Ohio Poison Control Center, HHS, as well as the federally qualified health center that is located here. This is a joint effort. We would encourage anyone who has concerns to take that opportunity to make an appointment and to go and see them, and they’ll get you connected into the health system and will give you some answers going forward.
Water testing by the Ohio EPA is continuing. One of the things that we did today, at our two home visits, was to drink some of the water, the village water. This village water is safe. How do we know that? We know that because it has been tested. But we’re going to continue to test and so the Ohio EPA will continue to test once a week going forward, and of course, those results will be published as soon as the results come back. Anyone who has a private well, we will test that as well and give them the results in regard to that.
Let me just say that it has been a real pleasure to work with Governor Shapiro. He and I have worked and been on the phone and text back and forth many, many times since the derailment. One of the things, that he and I have talked a lot about, is really the need we have for Congress to take a hard look at rail safety. There is something fundamentally wrong when a train like this can come into a state and the current law does not require, despite what they were hauling, does not require them to notify the state or local officials. That simply has to be changed.
The fact that this train did not qualify under current law, requiring the railroad company to make that notification, is just absurd. It makes absolutely no sense at all, and the two of us, as governors of states that have been directly impacted by this tragedy, are going to make sure that our voices are continued to be heard. And again, we’re asking Congress to hold hearings, asking Congress to take action in this area.
As I’ve talked to the mayor many times and I’ve talked to citizens of the community, the one request that I keep hearing is this, “Don’t leave us.” The concern, very legitimate concern, is that when all the TV cameras are gone, the reporters are gone and the world turns to something else, the community is going to be left here to handle this problem all on their own. Let me just say that we are making a public commitment again today. We will not leave them. We will stay here. We will continue to test. We’ll continue to do what needs to be done in the weeks and the months and the years as we go forward.
Let me now introduce a person I’ve gotten to know very well in the last several weeks, Governor Shapiro. Governor.
Gov. Shapiro (23:17):
Thank you, governor.
Gov. DeWine (23:18):
Gov. Shapiro (23:20):
Good afternoon, and Governor DeWine, thank you for welcoming me to your state. First Lady, thank you for having us here and thank you for the partnership that we have developed throughout this process, a partnership that’s putting people first.
I want to thank Administrator Regan for making East Palestine, Beaver County, Ohio, and Pennsylvania priority to not just the EPA but the federal government. We have been grateful to have regular communication with the President of the United States, the EPA Administrator, the Secretary of Transportation and others, and so I want to thank them for their leadership. And to that end, thank your local congressman, Congressman Johnson, as well as Congressman Deluzio from Pennsylvania just across the border, for their work.
I’m joined by several members of our Pennsylvania delegation who are here. Commissioner Camp of Beaver County, those local officials have just done an extraordinary job on the ground, as well as State Senator Elder Vogel. I know the state senators and representatives are going to do everything in their power to make sure that all of these issues are addressed at the state level. And I’m pleased to be joined by the head of PEMA, Randy Padfield, and our acting secretary of DEP, Rich Negrin, as well.
Since the first hours after this Norfolk Southern train derailment right here in East Palestine, our administration has been closely monitoring this situation on both sides of the border. We’ve been been on the ground coordinating with our first responders and emergency management personnel, our partners in Ohio, and the federal government. I’m thankful especially to Governor DeWine for making sure that he’s been the glue that has kept us all together here in this process.
A week ago, I was in Beaver County to meet with county leaders and emergency management personnel to get a firsthand account of the ongoing needs in our communities in Pennsylvania, and I heard two messages loud and clear. Number one, we need testing and knowledge, and number two, we need accountability, and we are going to deliver both.
My administration is committed to leading the way, so that Pennsylvanians are aware of and protected from any threat to their safety and to the resources that they have that may arise. Our top priority is always the health and safety of the good people of Pennsylvania.
Just last week I announced that Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection, under Rich Negrin’s leadership, will be conducting independent water sampling from both the Norfolk Southern sites and within Pennsylvania’s two-mile radius of the derailment. That independent sampling has already begun. We should be receiving the first round of test results in the coming days.
Residents with concerns about private well water should contact the Department of Environmental Protection’s Southwest regional office at 412- 442 4000 for more information about how to get your well tested.
We’ve also been working with the local municipal water authorities to help them test their water. I want to be very clear about something. Pennsylvania continues to see no concerning air quality readings following this incident, and we are now collecting the baseline water readings as well.
However, the Commonwealth, I want you to know, is going to continue monitoring the safety of Pennsylvania’s air, water, and environment to ensure that Pennsylvanians have the information they need to stay safe in the weeks and the months ahead. We’re going to stay in Darlington Township, and communities all across Beaver County, as long as it takes. And when I depart East Palestine here in a few moments, I’ll be heading back to Beaver County to speak with residents in the affected areas, together with their county commissioner.
At the same time we do this work, my administration is working with local fire departments from Beaver and Lawrence Counties who responded to the derailment. We’re making sure that Norfolk Southern reimburses those fire departments for the cost of any equipment that needs to be replaced because it was contaminated or damaged. I want to thank our acting Fire Commissioner Cook for his hard work on this effort. Those first responders answered the call. Their departments deserve to be made whole and they will be.
My administration will remain vigilant for any threats to Pennsylvanians and we will hold accountable Norfolk Southern, the company that made this vigilance necessary. The combination of Norfolk Southern’s corporate greed, incompetence, and lack of care for our residents, is absolutely unacceptable to me. I’ve been outspoken about the serious concerns that I had with the company’s failed management of this crisis. They chose not to participate in the unified command. They gave us inaccurate information and conflicting modeling data. And they refused to explore, or articulate alternative courses of action, when we were dealing with the derailment in the early days. In sum, Norfolk Southern injected unnecessary risk into this crisis and they created confusion in this process.
Thankfully, leaders like Governor DeWine, local leaders in the communities here in Ohio and in Pennsylvania, were able to do our jobs, even though Norfolk Southern made it harder. We will hold Norfolk Southern accountable for any and all impacts to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, to our residents and to our environment.
Today is another step toward accountability. I wanted to be here today to stand, not just with the governor, but with Administrator Regan when he made the critical announcement that the EPA will use its vast authority to ensure Norfolk Southern pays to clean up the mess that they created.
I want to thank Administrator Regan, and the Biden administration, for coming back to this region over and over again and making sure that there will be real accountability for Norfolk Southern. Under the order announced a moment ago by Administrator Regan, they’ll set up a series of incident management teams made up of representatives of Pennsylvania, Ohio, and our federal partners, to assess and test for environmental and health impacts from this derailment.
EPA, as you heard, will have the authority to compel Norfolk Southern to complete that testing and remediation and pay for any work, any testing, any cleanup that we do in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Nothing can make up for the damage that’s already been done, but what the good people of Pennsylvania and Ohio deserve now, is real accountability. This is an important step that will give our communities confidence that they will not be on the hook for the cleanup that was made at the hands of a multi-billion dollar company’s mess.
In the face of Norfolk Southern’s arrogance and incompetence, I want you to know we are fighting back. We stand with the good people of Pennsylvania and Ohio, and we stand with them against this corporate greed and incompetence. My administration will continue to work closely with our local state national partners to keep the people of Pennsylvania safe.
I know that some Pennsylvanians in Beaver County are worried right now. I get it. I get it as your governor, I get it as a father. I know you’re worried about your water, your health. I know you’re worried about your children and your families. I want every Pennsylvanian, who is worried right now, to know one thing, our administration stands with you. We will make sure you have the information and knowledge you need to keep your family safe, and we will hold Norfolk Southern accountable for their conduct.
With that, it’s my pleasure to introduce Congressman Bill Johnson, our local congressman from here in East Palestine.
Gov. Shapiro (32:00):
Speaker 9 (32:03):
Thank you Governor. I want to thank Governor DeWine, Governor Shapiro, Administrator Regan, for being here today. I said this in the first news conference that we had. There are some bright spots in this tragedy, and when you look at the collaborative work, from the federal, to the state, to the county, to the local, across state lines, I amazed at how many moving parts this tragedy has invoked, and yet we are making progress.
You’ve heard from the authorities at the state and federal level that accountability is certain. It’s going to be comprehensive. You’ve heard them say that we’re here for the long haul. To the citizens of East Palestine, the 6th congressional district that I represent. Let me define what that means. You, the citizens of East Palestine get to determine what that long haul finish line is. We are here and the experts are going to be here with ongoing testing, with remediation, with health concerns. We are going to be here until your questions are all answered and until you are convinced that you can return to normal life, that’s what the finish line looks like.
As your voice. I’m not a chemist, I’m not an engineer, but I represent you. And in that regard, I work for you. It’s not the other way around. And so my role is going to be engaging with those who do have the answers, to make sure that you get the answers that you need. And rather than reiterate anything that you’ve heard from Governor DeWine, Governor Shapiro, or Administrator Regan, I think we’ll now open it up for questions.
Speaker 10 (34:45):
Governor DeWine, if I could ask. A lot of criticism of the railroad industry, how confident are you that this particular enforcement is going to accomplish what you want?
Gov. DeWine (35:01):
That this particular enforcement is going to-
Speaker 10 (35:02):
Gov. DeWine (35:03):
Accomplish? Look, we’re going to do everything we can. There’s a real commitment and there’s been a commitment since this train wreck occurred. We understand that it’s not just about today, it’s not just about two weeks from now, but really it’s six months from now, a year from now, two years from now, people have long-term concerns and we’re going to do everything we can to stay at this, continue to work at this. And it’s really a joint effort. Governor Shapiro and I are dedicated to this. As I said, within just a few hours after the train wreck, Ohio, EPA was here, US EPA was here. We’re in this for the long run. It’s just our commitment, and when the cameras are gone, we’re still going to be here.
Because the concerns are long-term concerns. And as I talked to people today, it wasn’t just about, “Oh, I’m concerned about this today.” They had that concern, but the concern was, “Well, how’s it going to be in a year? How’s our water going to be in a year? How’s it going to be in two years?” And so, we have to stay at this and people have the right to expect that from us. Look, this is trauma. This community’s been traumatized. This is just a tough, tough situation that has occurred. And again, I’ll go back. It just to me reinforces when you talk to people here in East Palestine, it reinforces the importance that train safety take a higher priority than it has in the past. We have to look at train safety. 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. No other community should have to go through this.
Speaker 11 (37:13):
Question for either Governor-
Speaker 12 (37:18):
I have question for [inaudible 00:37:17] all over the world, and also the United States, came from Mexico, from [foreign language 00:37:20], newspapers in North and South America, including Europe, whichever US last week was characteristic this as, “Biden’s Chernobyl.” You and I have been around and this obviously has nothing to do with this tragedy that happened 1986. How bad is it really, right now? And how do you know that? And what’s the prognosis on the situation here in Palestine? For Governor Shapiro or Governor DeWine, you mentioned about consequences. Are we talking about the Commonwealth will take criminal actions against this company or state of Ohio will take civil actions are we talking criminal?
Administrator Regan (38:00):
Yeah. I’ll start by saying that the experts that work at EPA, nationally and the state EPA, have the expertise to tackle this problem. No question. We have the technology, we have the expertise. This community will bounce back and we will clean up this mess. I think we want to always have sympathy and empathy. An accident like this is as terrible as the person it hits, and so I think it’s not wise to compare it to other disasters, but really stay focused on the human beings. The communities here whose lives have been upended, as the Governor said, who have been traumatized, and we are committed not only to stand here to see this job finished, but to ensure that Norfolk Southern pays for it.
Speaker 13 (38:46):
Gov. DeWine (38:51):
Let me answer the rest of the question and then Governor Shapiro can. Attorney General Yost will take the appropriate action. He’s the Attorney General of the State of Ohio. He’ll certainly take the appropriate action. I guarantee you that.
Gov. Shapiro (39:02):
And I could just add for Pennsylvania, I’m the former Attorney General of Pennsylvania, we’ve made a criminal referral to the Acting Attorney General in Pennsylvania to review, and acting Attorney General Henry can speak to that beyond my comments.
Speaker 14 (39:19):
This is a question-
Speaker 9 (39:19):
Can I comment on that one second? You heard both governors talk about rail safety. I have already begun engaging with my congressional colleagues on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in the House. The chair of the subcommittee over rail transportation and the vice chair are both actively engaged. Much of what you’re talking about here in what’s going to happen with accountability on what happened, how it happened and why it happened will be begun once the National Transportation Safety Board releases its investigation and we find out what happened. That will dictate whether there are laws, regulations that need to be changed, whether there were rules that were violated. We don’t know any of that yet and we won’t know that until the NTSB releases its report.
Speaker 15 (40:21):
[inaudible 00:40:20] [inaudible 00:40:21] WKYC here, Administrator Regan, can you discuss the results from the municipal wells as opposed to private wells? I think it was last Thursday that the Governor said that 38 private wells have been tested. I haven’t heard of results for those. Can you discuss why it’s taking longer for those results as opposed to the municipal?
Administrator Regan (40:39):
I’ll let the governor answer that because you know the states, these two competent executives here, they have primacy on the emergency response piece and the water testing piece, and we are providing that backup capacity. So I’ll let the Governor take that question.
Gov. DeWine (40:55):
Well, that’s a very good question. I asked my team that same question for the last few days. It’s the lab. We’re waiting for the laboratory. They’re very careful. They understand what they have to test for and I’m sure they don’t want to make any mistakes, but I’m as anxious as anybody is to get those results back.
Speaker 16 (41:16):
Governor Shapiro, you’ve been pretty clear about how we characterize Norfolk Southern’s response here as inadequate, but this is a question for both of you. Have the executives of the company said anything going forward that leads you to believe that they will abide and not have to be compelled to do anything?
Gov. Shapiro (41:30):
I think the fact that Administrator Regan has used his authority under CERCLA to hold them accountable and make them pay, demonstrates some real leadership by the federal government. It is my view the 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, and that’s exactly what Administrator Regan and the federal government, combined with the authorities in Ohio and Pennsylvania are taking steps to do, and that is to hold them accountable.
Speaker 16 (42:05):
Governor DeWine, there’s concern among the residents of East Palestine that the water, when it was established safe to drink, that it was determined to be so based on tests that were done in conjunction with Norfolk Southern. Is that the case? And has the EPA tested water independently?
Gov. DeWine (42:24):
Yes, we’re testing it independently.
Speaker 16 (42:26):
Was it initially tested in conjunction-
Gov. DeWine (42:29):
I’d have to ask my director.
Director Anne Vogel (42:31):
Gov. DeWine (42:32):
Director, you want to come up?
Director Anne Vogel (42:34):
Thank you Governor.
Gov. DeWine (42:36):
Anne Vogel, Director.
Director Anne Vogel (42:37):
Director of the Ohio EPA. Let me walk you through the testing. So the Norfolk Southern contractor did [inaudible 00:42:44], they did their own testing. That same sample at the same time was collected by the county and sent to a separate lab. That testing also came back. A third layer of protection was the local public water system testing their finished water. That was clear of VOCs as well. We also understand where the municipal wells are in relation to the accident and have no suggestion that the contamination would get there. Thank you.
Gov. DeWine (43:09):
Administrator, Monica from ABC News. A lot of people have been complaining about sort of [inaudible 00:43:16], they say that their face is burning and other ailments. Do you believe that is connected to the train derailment?
Administrator Regan (43:22):
I believe people, when they say that they’re facing adverse impacts, and what we’re doing is we’re asking them to seek medical attention. I think part of the Governor’s announcement today with the health enforcement or reinforcement here is to provide people that navigation to seek medical help. And then we can take that information and add that as part of our response. So yes, we’re not discounting what people are experiencing at all. We just ask that they seek medical help while we conduct all of our investigations.
Speaker 16 (43:58):
What will the days and weeks look like? Will the soil be cleaned up first? Then the sludge, then you’ll work out from there? What will this cleanup actually look like in the days and weeks ahead?
Administrator Regan (44:09):
Yeah. Within 48 hours of this order being signed, you’ll have multiple tracks of cleanup. You’ll also have the federal, state, and local governments engaging with Norfolk Southern to put together a specific work plan outlining every single movement that they make, that we will approve. Again, we’re going to push them to do it right, and to do it as quickly as possible and do it as transparently as possible. It’s important that the community understands what’s happening in their backyard and rest assured we’re going to hold Norfolk Southern accountable.
Gov. DeWine (44:42):
Let me just add. This work has been continuing. The latest numbers I have from my team, soil removal, 4,588 cubic yards have been removed, contaminated water removal, 1.1 million gallons. So that work is going to continue. And I also know that there’s been a concern by citizens very understandably, that the railroad got the tracks back on and started running and the soil under the tracks had not been dealt with. So under the Administrator’s order that soil will be removed. So the tracks will have to be taken up and that soil will have to be removed.
Speaker 17 (45:28):
Administrator Reagan, do you know how many people have signed up so far in response to the cleanup? Also, you reference that if Norfolk Southern does not fulfill its requirement you fine [inaudible 00:45:39] triple, would that surplus signal go to residence or what would that look like?
Administrator Regan (45:43):
In terms of the testing, we’ve tested over 550 homes for indoor air quality and we-
Speaker 17 (45:54):
Medical response sorry, not the home.
Administrator Regan (45:55):
Speaker 17 (45:55):
The medical response [inaudible 00:45:56] that’s on board right now, how many people have signed up for that?
Gov. DeWine (45:59):
Oh yeah, that’s last. I think there was 38 people who had signed up and again, it’s open from 8:00 until 8:00, Monday through Saturday. And the numbers I gave are the numbers that people need to call to sign up and we’re going to continue to do that as long as there’s a desire of people to show up and talk to the doctors.
Speaker 18 (46:24):
On the air testing, you were just about to speak about that. Mr. Regan. You all, I believe have tested for vinyl chloride and hydrogen fluoride, but experts have said that there might be other byproducts. Is the EPA testing for any other possible toxins and is that being done independently? Also, can you speak to soil testing?
Administrator Regan (46:42):
So we are doing an analysis of all of that. All of what you just described are things that we either have underway currently or will put underway based on this order that we’ve put in place. We have air monitoring, and soil testing and water testing that is able to detect and capture everything that was on that train. So we feel really good about that.
I also want to answer the last question, which is we will use our full enforcement authority, and if Norfolk Southern decides that they don’t want to follow through, this order gives us the ability to step in and do the work simultaneously fine them up to $70,000 a day, and then when we go after them to recoup our cost, we can go after triple the amount that we had to put in.
Speaker 18 (47:30):
Why today? Why [inaudible 00:47:34] role taking out today, 18 days after the [inaudible 00:47:37].
Administrator Regan (47:37):
Oh, this picks up on the points that both Governors have made. The Governors have primacy in the emergency response phase. So we’ve been playing a supportive role in what I believe to be a very effective collaboration between state and local government. As we shift from the emergency response phase to the cleanup phase, it is now time for
Administrator Regan (48:00):
For the federal government to step in with action like we’re taking and continue to partner with these state agencies and with the congressman’s office.
Governor, if those medical clinics do find that some of these people have long-term health effects from this company’s spill, who’s going to pay for their long-term healthcare?
Gov. DeWine (48:20):
Yeah, the railroad needs to pay for it. Look, the railroad needs to pay for anything that they caused, anything that they did. So when someone shows up at the clinic and if they do not have insurance, the railroad needs to be made to pay for that.
Clear health agents keeping metrics on people who report symptoms? Is that something you’ll be doing going forward?
Gov. DeWine (48:44):
Mayor Conaway, excuse me. I see you back there and we’re hearing sympathy, empathy. We’re hearing promises. You live in this community.
Mayor Conaway (48:54):
I’d love to know how you process everything that you are hearing from these people.
Mayor Conaway (49:01):
I have to trust the people behind me. That is their job. It is out of my hands now. Just like the railroad, I’ve met a couple times with the CEO, if he doesn’t hold, if he’s not a man of his word, then I have to use these gentlemen and ladies to hold him responsible.
Are you convinced, are you certain that they will be here for the long haul?
Mayor Conaway (49:31):
Yes, and the reason I say that is the one thing I have is the bully pulpit so I can call a few of you in the media and shed light back on this. We’ve had amazing media response to this and they’re all over our town. Our townspeople are, please don’t take this wrong, they’re sick of seeing all you in town. We want to get back to, we’re a quiet little town of 4,700 and that’s where we want to go. I really hope something good can come out of this. I know that sounds odd with what’s transpired in the last few weeks, but our goal is to, our town comes out better and without the help of the EPA and state and governments it’s not going to.
Are you satisfied with what the federal and state governments are doing in terms of this enforcement action or do you think there should be criminal liability for the company?
Mayor Conaway (50:31):
I don’t… They need to clean up the mess they made. As far as… I’m not a lawyer. I don’t want to speak on that as far as criminal actions, I do think it was an accident. Now, what caused the accident? I don’t know, but I really don’t want to speak on criminal. I want them to fix our town and put it back the way it works.
They’ve described this as justice, as steps towards justice. Is this justice for you once the plan’s been outlined?
Mayor Conaway (50:57):
Justice for me would be making our town whole again, taking us back, turning back the clock to February 2nd, 2022, and hopefully we come out better than we were on that date. We need to our town cleaned up. We need our residents to feel safe in their homes. That’s the number one thing. Your home is your sanctuary. If you don’t feel safe in your home, then you’re never going to feel safe anywhere.
Governor, you mentioned that the soil under the track will be removed? Do you know when that will be removed? Will that be sooner rather than later? Is there a date for that?
Gov. DeWine (51:28):
The governor mentioned that the soil under the track that Norfolk Southern laid down would be removed. Do you know when that will be? Will that be sooner rather than later?
Administrator Regan (51:37):
We’ll work as quickly as possible. We just signed the order yesterday. There’s 48 hours. The company has an opportunity to respond and then engage with us to begin to put together a very comprehensive work plan, and so I can just assure you, we’re going to push them as far and as fast as we can.
Have they responded?
Administrator Regan (51:56):
I have not heard from the company, but that doesn’t mean the agency hasn’t. But I have a lot of confidence in the laws that Congress have given me to have them respond and respond appropriately.
Administrator, outside experts, they say based on what they’ve seen, testing data has gaps and just not a lot of information is available. Governor Shapiro, he mentioned failed management and conflicting data from Northfolk Southern. So what specific data has been inaccurate and how has this impacted the EPA ability to test water and air quality properly? If there’s conflicting data from Northfolk Southern and failed management, how can you tell residents they’re safe when there’s questions in every possible, whether every possible chemical is being tested for, including dioxin?
Administrator Regan (52:37):
Well, I can speak to the testing that we are conducting at the federal level and the state can speak to theirs. If there’s conflict in information, it’s the data that’s coming from Norfolk Southern not matching or meeting our expectations. We feel very confident, I feel very confident in the technologies that we’ve deployed. We’ve deployed aircraft. We have mobile vans circling the community. We have stationary air monitoring strategically placed all across this community. We’ve tested the indoor air quality of over 550 homes. So our data is very solid and we believe that in our partnership with the state that we have absolute confidence in if the homes have been cleared and tested for drinking water, then we trust that data. So we feel really good about that.
Are you testing for dioxin?
Administrator Regan (53:27):
I’d have to consult with my team. I’m not quite sure if we are testing for dioxin yet. I know that that is under discussion and it’s not something that’s off the table.
Are you testing for soil contamination in the path of bloom?
D you want to speak to that? Yeah.
Speaker 19 (53:49):
Yes. In collaboration with the EPA, both state and federal, the testing of the soil in yards and things like that, you’re hearing from residents, “We don’t know if we can walk in our lawn or in our yard,” that testing is done by the county soil folks, but it’s being done as part of the overall collaborative effort in conjunction with the EPA.
Governor Shapiro, we talked to some Pennsylvania residents who feel left out because they’re not able to get these checks from Norfolk Southern, they’re not able to go to the health clinic. Do you have concerns about that and what’s being done in your state to make sure that those people are made whole and not [inaudible 00:54:29]?
Gov. Shapiro (54:29):
Sure. Well, I’ve been on the ground in Beaver County multiple times. My team has been there since day one. I’ll be back in Beaver County as soon as y’all are done asking your questions here, appropriate questions of course, and we will be there as long as it takes to make sure that those residents and their needs are addressed.
There has been significant amount of back and forth between the residents and their local government, led by the Beaver County Commissioners, who have just done an extraordinary job. There’s been a lot of engagement on making sure that they have what they need relative to bottles of water. We’ve been engaging with them over the weekend to set up the testing of their wells and of their water supply, which is occurring literally today. So there’s been a lot of back and forth. I want to continue to hear from the residents. Whatever needs they have will be addressed. Whatever costs that are born in Pennsylvania will be paid for by Norfolk Southern. There will be no problems relative to Ohio getting something that Pennsylvania doesn’t. And the fact that this is a federal action being taken by the EPA, combined with some of the other federal commitments made by the President and others, I’m confident Pennsylvania will get whatever it needs to get back up on its feet as a result of Norfolk Southern’s incompetence.
Governor, is there anything like a [inaudible 00:55:55] or a clinic that Pennsylvanians can go to?
Gov. Shapiro (55:58):
Pennsylvanians who have health issues have had access to healthcare facilities in the Commonwealth. We know of reports of some people who are taking advantage of that. I’m going to defer to Governor DeWine relative to Pennsylvanians who need access, who may want to access his clinic here. He can speak to that, but we have not received complaints from Pennsylvanians who lack access to healthcare. And certainly if we hear a complaint like that, we would make arrangements to get an individual in that general area, affected area into accessing the healthcare that they need.
But there have been Pennsylvanians who have been calling and trying to get an appointment at this? Clinic
Gov. Shapiro (56:39):
At the clinic here in Ohio? I really can’t speak to the clinic in Ohio. I’m sorry.
Gov. DeWine (56:45):
Yeah, we’re not going to turn anybody away.
Speaker 19 (56:48):
Ladies and gentlemen, we have time for about two more questions.
Mayor, would you like to see President Biden visit the community?
Mayor Conaway (57:03):
I would never turn anybody away. This has been made into a political pawn game. No, I would never turn anybody away. If he wants to come visit, he can come visit. We don’t want to be political pawns. We don’t want to be a soundbite or a news bite. We just want to go back to living our lives the way they were. They don’t want see me on television anymore. They don’t want you guys around here. We don’t want to have press conferences in our community center. We want to be having picnics here and go back to small town America. He’s more welcome to come if he wants to come. I was very frustrated last night. If you’re talking about the comments I made last night, I was very frustrated and I stand by those comments. But yeah, if he wants to come, he’s welcome.
Gov. Shapiro (58:00):
I just want to, if I may, I just want to make a comment. This may be obvious, but I think it’s important to point out we’ve got a Republican congressman and a Democratic congressman who are here, a Republican governor and a Democratic governor who have been working together on this matter since the moments after that train derailed, even before Norfolk Southern tipped us off to it. This is how government is supposed to work, and we’re both working together with the Biden administration to make sure we draw down whatever federal resources there are, whatever federal help that they need.
The good people of Ohio and Pennsylvania can know that we’ve put any kind of partisan politics aside, and I’ll just speak for myself, not Governor DeWine or the mayor, we don’t want the circus coming to town here or in Beaver County. This is not a place for conspiracy theories or political games. This is a place where the good people of Pennsylvania and Ohio deserve answers, deserve accountability, and deserve public servants who are doing exactly what the people up here are doing, and that is putting politics aside to get things done for the citizens of these two great communities.
Just to clarify water testing, you said you’re going to do a municipal well, but the public water system has continuous flow.
Gov. DeWine (59:15):
What about private wells? Is that going to go on continuously and how often, all this is indefinite or how long?
Gov. DeWine (59:23):
Look, we’re going to continue to do that. We’re going to continue to test the municipal water. We’ll do that once a week if people desire to have their water tested. If they’re individual well, we’re going to do that as well. I’ve also, since you brought that up, I’ve also instructed my EPA director, as part of our overall, what we call H2 Ohio program, to see what we can do in regard to the village to give them help so that anybody in the village, so we can expand it so the whole system, so if anybody wants to be on the system, that they will be able to get on the system. That’s a long term issue, but it’s something that we can address.
Speaker 19 (01:00:11):
Great. Before we take just one more question, I just want to note that we have other representatives from all of the agencies that are up here today at the federal, state, local level. So we’ll be happy to answer additional questions kind of off the podium with the folks who are here from those agencies. We’ve got time for one more question.
Governors, administrators, are any steps being taken towards non-financial action against Norfolk Southern for the derailment and subsequent fallout?
Gov. Shapiro (01:00:38):
I could tell you, as I said, my Department of Environmental Protection made a criminal referral to the Attorney General’s office. My Office of General Counsel is looking at other legal steps that we might take. So we’re going to make sure that there is accountability, as I’ve said multiple times, accountability to make sure that the resources are spent by Norfolk Southern to cover testing, remediation, et cetera. And if other legal steps are necessary, we won’t hesitate to take them in Pennsylvania.
Gov. DeWine (01:01:06):
Okay. Let me say for Ohio, Ohio Attorney General, we’ll take whatever action that Ohio law allows him to take, and I know he’s reviewing this right now. Thank you all very much.
Thank you. Thanks, Governor.
Gov. DeWine (01:01:22):
Gov. Shapiro (01:01:23):