COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Norfolk Southern’s CEO is set to testify before an Ohio Senate rail safety panel Tuesday, more than two months after a fiery train derailment including hazardous materials rocked the village of East Palestine.
Alan Shaw has promised millions of dollars to help the Ohio-Pennsylvania border community recover, but also faces a lawsuit from Ohio’s Attorney General Dave Yost over costs for the toxic chemical spill cleanup and environmental damage. The federal government has also sued the railroad.
Shaw previously testified before the Pennsylvania legislature as well as Congress over the derailment, but now faces Ohio lawmakers, who recently passed a state transportation budget that would impose new rail safety measures on Norfolk Southern and other railroads traveling through their state.
Whether they’re allowed to do so, however, remains a point of debate. The Ohio Railroad Association, a trade group, has argued that several of the measures are preempted by federal law. Legislators say the General Assembly can put statewide safeguards in place to help protect constituents.
No one was injured during the Feb. 3 derailment, but half of the nearly 5,000 East Palestine residents were evacuated for days. Many say they continue to suffer from health problems because of an intentional toxic chemical release and burn, which was conducted to prevent uncontrolled explosions after the derailment.
Samantha Hendrickson is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.