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Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro announces criminal referral in East Palestine train derailment disaster

Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro said Tuesday his office has made a criminal referral to the state’s acting attorney general to review in the East Palestine train derailment that forced evacuations when toxic chemicals were released and burned. 

Shapiro announced the referral while sharing the podium with Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and EPA Administrator Michael Regan in East Palestine, Ohio. 

“We’ve made a criminal referral to the acting attorney general in Pennsylvania to review and acting Attorney General [Michelle] Henry can speak to that beyond my comments,” Shapiro said. 

The Democratic governor blasted Norfolk Southern over what he called its “failed management of this crisis,” saying the company chose not to take part in a unified incident command and provided inaccurate information and conflicting modeling data.

“The combination of Norfolk Southern’s corporate greed, incompetence, and lack of concern for our residents is absolutely unacceptable to me,” he said.


The Democratic governor has partnered with his Ohioan counterpart in response efforts to the train derailment that has left residents on edge and wary of returning home. 

DeWine said he and Shapiro have both talked about the need 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 them – despite what they were hauling – to notify the state or local officials. That simply has to be changed,” DeWine said. 

DeWine said Ohio’s attorney general has also launched an investigation.

The EPA told Norfolk Southern Tuesday to take all available measures to clean up contaminated air and water. The agency also said the company would be required to reimburse the federal government for a new program to provide cleaning services for impacted residents and businesses.


The EPA warned Norfolk Southern that if failed to comply with its order, the agency would perform the work itself and seek triple damages from the company.

“The Norfolk Southern train derailment has upended the lives of East Palestine families, and EPA’s order will ensure the company is held accountable for jeopardizing the health and safety of this community,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan said in a statement. “Let me be clear: Norfolk Southern will pay for cleaning up the mess they created and for the trauma they’ve inflicted on this community.” 

The agency said it would release more details on the cleanup service for residents and businesses this week.

“We recognize that we have a responsibility, and we have committed to doing what’s right for the residents of East Palestine,” Norfolk Southern said in a statement. “We have been paying for the clean-up activities to date and will continue to do so.” 

“We are committed to thoroughly and safely cleaning the site, and we are reimbursing residents for the disruption this has caused in their lives,” the company said. 

“We are investing in helping East Palestine thrive for the long-term, and we will continue to be in the community for as long as it takes. We are going to learn from this terrible accident and work with regulators and elected officials to improve railroad safety.” 

Some 50 freight cars derailed on the outskirts of East Palestine, near the Pennsylvania state line, prompting persistent environmental and health concerns. The derailment prompted an evacuation as fears grew about a potential explosion of smoldering wreckage.

Officials seeking to avoid the danger of an uncontrolled blast chose to intentionally release and burn toxic vinyl chloride from five rail cars, sending flames and black smoke again billowing high into the sky. The move left people questioning the potential health impacts for residents in the area and beyond, even as authorities maintained they were doing their best to protect people.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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