President Biden issues executive order to ‘hold Norfolk Southern accountable’ for Ohio derailment

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden has issued an executive order to protect the people of East Palestine, Ohio and surrounding communities after the toxic train derailment.

According to a news release, the president has directed FEMA to appoint a Federal Disaster Recovery Coordinator.

The coordinator will oversee long-term recovery efforts.

President Biden also announced new steps to ensure Norfolk Southern continues meeting its obligations to the community.

Four federal agencies will report back to the president regarding the status of cleanup and recovery.

The executive order directs the following federal agency actions:

Federal Emergency Management Agency

  • Within five days of the Executive Order, FEMA will designate a Federal Disaster Recovery Coordinator to oversee long-term recovery efforts in the affected communities. The Coordinator will conduct a comprehensive assessment of any unmet needs that are not addressed by Norfolk Southern and would qualify for Federal assistance. The Coordinator will also collaborate with the Federal, State and local governments, the private sector and voluntary, faith-based and community organizations supporting the recovery.
  • The State of Ohio’s request for a major disaster declaration pursuant to the Stafford Act will be held open. If the FEMA Administrator receives new information from the State, including needs that are not being addressed by Norfolk Southern, she will immediately submit a recommendation on whether a major disaster declaration is warranted.

Environmental Protection Agency

  • EPA will continue to direct removal of contaminated soils and wastewater from the derailment site, in compliance with state and Federal law. In addition, EPA will ensure that any remaining contamination in surface stream sediments is addressed, and that air and water monitoring continue.
  • Within 30 days, EPA will provide a report to the President on the status of air, soil, and water monitoring and whether Norfolk Southern continues to comply with the Federal Unilateral Administrative Order to address the imminent and substantial endangerment caused by the company’s derailment. Moving forward, EPA will provide the President with an updated report every 60 days until all cleanup, assessment, and monitoring work required by EPA’s Order has been completed.

Health and Human Services Administration

  • Within 60 days, HHS will provide the President with a report summarizing key conclusions from the public health testing and assessment that has been conducted to date, and the resources HHS and the CDC have provided to address any health conditions related to the derailment.
  • In coordination with the affected States, HHS will continue to monitor the public health consequences of the derailment, including to determine whether any acute medical conditions develop. If such medical conditions develop, HHS and EPA will each evaluate whether a public health emergency should be declared.
  • HHS will provide technical assistance to the States of Ohio and Pennsylvania in the event that either State considers submitting a proposal for services through the Medicaid program for individuals affected by the derailment.

Department of Transportation

  • Within 60 days, DOT will provide the President with a report detailing the actions the Department is taking in response to the East Palestine train derailment. This report will be updated within 120 days of the final National Transportation Safety Board investigation, and DOT will provide the President a preliminary set of follow-on actions to ensure accountability.

Norfolk Southern has issued a statement:

“From the beginning, Norfolk Southern has committed to making it right in East Palestine and covering all costs associated with the clean-up. In the months since, we have made significant progress, keeping our promises to safely and thoroughly clean the derailment site, support the needs of the community, and invest in its future. We remain committed to East Palestine today, and into the future, and will continue to work closely with federal, state, and local leaders.”

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