COLUMBUS, Ohio — Norfolk Southern has agreed to exclusively use Ohio-based businesses to clean up the site of the fiery train derailment last month in East Palestine.
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost made the announcement Wednesday. Yost said he thought it a good idea that the railroad hire statewide businesses to do the work, which could take two years to complete.
“We didn’t ask for this accident to happen here in Ohio or in East Palestine, and we would be quite happy not to have to deal with it,” Yost said during a briefing in Trumbull County. “But since this accident did happen, I’m pleased that Norfolk Southern has signed off on the agreement and that Ohio businesses are going to benefit. Ohioans are highly capable, so there's no reason to look elsewhere."
No one was injured in the Feb. 3 train derailment in East Palestine, but concerns over a potential explosion led state and local officials to approve releasing and burning toxic vinyl chloride from five tanker cars that forced the evacuations of half the village and closed schools for a week.
Fifteen Ohio-based companies are already involved in the ongoing cleanup. Under the agreement announced by Yost, Norfolk Southern would be allowed to select an out-of-state vendor in the unlikely case that no Ohio companies have the expertise to complete specific work.
Yost's agreement with Norfolk Southern will have no bearing on the lawsuit the state of Ohio filed earlier this month against Norfolk Southern.
“Norfolk Southern will be in East Palestine as long as it takes to help the community recover and thrive,” said Norfolk Southern President and CEO Alan Shaw. “As we make progress every day, we are continuing our efforts to hire Ohio companies and Ohio workers to perform future work in the East Palestine area. We look forward to supporting local businesses.”
The announcement by Yost comes on the same day that a massive $13.5 billion transportation budget cleared both houses of the Ohio legislature. The plan calls for added rail safety rules, including the requirement of two-person crews on freight trains and mandating wayside track detectors be 10-15 miles apart.