Alongside fellow lawmakers at the Darlington Fire Company on Tuesday, Pennsylvania state Representative Eric Nelson (R-Greensburg) asked Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency Acting Director Randy Padfield who has final say over what to do with a wrecked train carrying toxic chemicals: the rail company or state government?
At the hearing of the Pennsylvania House Bipartisan Policy Committee, Nelson said he wanted to know whether Pennsylvania emergency and environmental officials could decide whether to approve or quash plans to incinerate a certain number of rail cars on such a train if it crashed in the Keystone State.
Western Pennsylvanians who live near the site of the February 3 Norfolk Southern train derailment and subsequent burn went before a State Senate Committee Thursday to state that the event is causing deleterious health consequences. The 53-car train derailed in the village of East Palestine, Ohio, less than a mile from where the Buckeye State abuts Beaver County in Pennsylvania. In the crash’s aftermath, the train company proceeded to burn five rail cars containing vinyl chloride, a course of action company officials said would avert a potentially disastrous explosion. Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro (D) initially supported what has been called the “controlled burn” but has subsequently blasted Norfolk Southern for its handling of the incident, particularly its decision to burn five cars; Shapiro asserted he was only told one car would be incinerated.