Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Gov. Shapiro Lays Out Serious Concerns Regarding Norfolk Southern’s Incident Management After Meeting With Beaver County Officials

On February 14, following a meeting with Beaver County Commissioners, local elected officials, and emergency management leaders, Governor Shapiro
sent a letter to Norfolk Southern Corporation CEO Alan Shaw, expressing serious concerns regarding the company’s management of the February 3 train derailment. 

Local and state leaders are frustrated and concerned by Norfolk Southern’s disregard for crisis management best practices and agree Norfolk Southern could have put Pennsylvanians’ health and well-being at risk.

Governor Shapiro met with State Senator Camera Bartolotta, State Rep. Josh Kail, State Rep. Jim Marshall, State Rep. Robert Matzie, Beaver County Commissioners Dan Camp, Jack Manning, and Tony Amadio, and Beaver County Emergency Services Deputy Director Kevin Whipple.

The Governor's letter says in part--

“I am writing to express my serious concerns regarding Norfolk Southern Corporation’s management of the Norfolk Southern train derailment that occurred near East Palestine, Ohio on February 3.

“The derailment occurred approximately a quarter mile from the Pennsylvania state line and has had a significant impact on the residents, businesses, and environment in Beaver County.”

“First, Norfolk Southern failed to implement Unified Command, creating confusion and resulting in a general lack of awareness for first responders and emergency management of the tactics Norfolk Southern planned in response.”

“Second Norfolk Southern gave inaccurate information and conflicting modeling about the impact of the controlled release that made protective action decision making more difficult in the immediate aftermath of the derailment.”

“Third, Norfolk Southern’s unwillingness to explore or articulate alternative courses of action to their proposed vent and burn limited state and local leaders; ability to respond effectively.”

“While I appreciate that responding to train derailments presents an array of complex challenges, failure to adhere to well-accepted standards of practice related to incident management and prioritizing an accelerated and arbitrary timeline to reopen the rail line injected unnecessary risk and created confusion in the process.

“You can be assured that Pennsylvania will hold Norfolk Southern accountable for any and all impacts to our Commonwealth.

“Norfolk Southern has repeatedly assured us of the safety of their rail cars-- in fact, leading Norfolk Southern personnel described them to me as “the Cadillac of rail cars”-- yet despite these assertions, these were the same cars that Norfolk Southern Personnel Rushed to vent and burn without gathering input from state and local leaders.

“Norfolk Southern’s well known opposition to modernized regulations require further scrutiny and investigation to limit the devastating effects of future accidents on peoples’ lives, property, businesses, and the environment.

“While regulation of the railroad industry is largely the purview of our federal partners, we plan to take direct action here in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

“I have called on the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, which is charged with oversight of the Commonwealth’s railroads, to review Norfolk Southern’s conduct and report back their findings.

“Like me, members of our state legislative delegation are troubled by the conduct of Norfolk Southern during this incident.  As they proceed with their review and oversight responsibilities, I have pledged the full cooperation of my Administration in order to help them facilitate holding your company accountable to Pennsylvanians.”

“I urge the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) to reexamine what constitutes a high-hazard flammable train and revisit the need for regulation requiring high-hazard flammable trains to carry more advanced safety and braking equipment.

“As you conduct your after-action report, I expect you to address these concerns and report back on what steps you are taking to rectify the situation and ensure this does not happen again.”

Click Here for a copy of the entire letter.

DEP Monitoring

Pennsylvania continues to see no concerning air or water quality readings following this incident. The Department of Environmental Protection will continue to work with its partners to monitor the air and water quality closely in the weeks and months ahead.

For more information about air and water quality, please view the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s monitoring results here.


-- WITF: PA Emergency Services Implore State For Urgent Help With Staffing, Funding - Fire, EMS, Police

-- PA Capital-Star: Gov. Shapiro Says Norfolk Southern’s Response To Ohio/PA Train Derailment, Fire Put First Responders And Residents At ‘Significant Risk’

-- Altoona Mirror: Gov. Shapiro Blasts Norfolk Southern Over Train Derailment

-- TribLive: Lawsuit: Thousands Of Western PA Residents At Risk After Ohio Train Derailment

-- Post-Gazette: Ohio/PA Residents, Officials Still Reeling From Aftermath Of Train Derailment

-- WHYY: Health Concerns Grow After Ohio/PA Train Derailment

-- WITF/AP: Ohio/PA Train Derailment Aftermath: How Worried Should People Be?

-- WPost: Officials Tell Ohio Town Hit By Toxic Train Crash To Drink Bottled Water

-- WESA/AP: Ohio Community To Host Public Meeting Tonight On Ohio/PA Train Derailment, Chemicals

-- Wheeling News: NTSB Looking At Overheated Wheel Bearing In Ohio/PA Train Derailment Investigation

-- Post-Gazette Editorial: Who’s Next?  Attacks On Press Freedom, Big and Small, Put Democracy At Risk [Train Derailment-related Reporter Arrested]

-- WKYC: Norfolk Southern May Be Liable For Cost Of Ohio/PA Train Derailment Cleanup   

-- Seeking Alpha: Norfolk Southern Trades Lower After EPA Warning Of Heavy Ohio/PA Derailment Clean Up Costs  

-- Courier Journal: Pollution From Ohio/PA Train Wreck Headed Down The Ohio River  

-- AP: Ohio/PA Train Derailment Prompts WV Water Utility To Take Precautions Related To Possible Chemical Contamination 

-- Newsweek: Toxic Chemicals From Ohio/PA Train Derailment Raises Drinking Water Impact Concerns

-- Wheeling News: EPA Letter Lists More Chemicals Released Into The Air, Water At Ohio/PA Train Derailment Site

Related Articles This Week:

-- Gov. Shapiro Lays Out Serious Concerns Regarding Norfolk Southern’s Incident Management After Meeting With Beaver County Officials  [PaEN]

-- Gov. Shapiro Announces Pennsylvania Will Conduct Independent Water Sampling Following Ohio/PA Train Derailment  [PaEN]

-- PA Agriculture On Ohio/PA Train Derailment Impacts: 2 Reports Of Horses Affected By Smoke Immediately Following Controlled Burn; No Reports Of Livestock, Domestic Animal Health Symptoms After [PaEN] 

-- Ohio/PA Train Derailment, Pipeline Explosions, Uncontrolled Releases Put Spotlight On Public Health, Safety Threats Posed By Petrochemical, Natural Gas Industrial And Pipeline Infrastructure In PA  [PaEN]

-- Groups Urge DEP To Temporarily Halt Operations At Shell Petrochemical Plant In Beaver County; File 2nd Notice Of Intent To Sue For Air Pollution Violations  [PaEN]

-- DEP Issued 754 Notices Of Violation For Defective Oil & Gas Well Casing, Cementing, The Fundamental Protection Needed To Prevent Gas Migration, Groundwater & Air Contamination, Explosions  [PaEN]

-- Pennsylvania Oil & Gas Weekly Compliance Dashboard - Feb. 11 to 17  [PaEN] 

-- Susquehanna River Basin Commission Approves 38 Water Use Requests For Shale Gas Well Drilling Pads In Bradford, Clearfield, Lycoming, Potter, Sullivan, Susquehanna, Tioga, Wyoming Counties  [PaEN] 

-- Better Path Coalition Hosts Feb. 21 Webinar On DEP's Federally-Funded Oil & Gas Well Plugging Program [PaEN] 

-- Environmental Health Project Blog: Natural Gas Compressor Stations - A Guide To Protecting Your Health And The Environment [Photo: FracTracker, Clinton County] [PaEN]

-- PA Environmental Defense Foundation Files Court Motion To Prevent Unconstitutional Spending Of DCNR Oil & Gas Revenues For Nonconservation Purposes  [PaEN]

[Posted: February 14, 2023]  PA Environment Digest

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