Home Featured News Opinion: What is Happening in East Palestine Ohio

Opinion: What is Happening in East Palestine Ohio

Drone footage shows the freight train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, U.S., February 6, 2023 in this screengrab obtained from a handout video released by the NTSB. NTSBGov/Handout via REUTERS

By Braeden Pelton

A train carrying toxic chemicals derailed in East Palestine, Ohio on Feb. 3 at 9 p.m. fifty cars tipped, among them about 20 were carrying these chemicals, including ethylhexyl acrylate, vinyl chloride, and several others. 

The rail company responsible for the spill, Norfolk Southern, gave a list of the currently confirmed chemicals to the Environmental Protection Agency who then posted the list. As the days have rolled by, more chemicals have been identified. Many of these are flammable and as such, they produced a large fire with flames reaching 100 feet high which produced a large plume of smoke.

A couple thousand citizens have been evacuated, with many hesitant to return to their homes. Despite the evacuation order being lifted on Feb. 8, many citizens say that the air still smells like chlorine. Other concerns were brought up like water contamination as large amounts of fish corpses have been seen in local bodies of water, along with some livestock becoming ill.

Although Norfolk Southern did donate $25,000 to assist in getting the Red Cross out to help along with announcing a $1 million fund to assist the community, they still have a lot to answer for. The company has been too quiet with the residents when discussing the derailment and cleanup. Norfolk Southern officials didn’t even show up to a town meeting held in one of the local school’s gymnasium to go over what was going on. 

After a separate derailment in New Jersey in 2012 that also released noxious chemicals, the federal government wanted to put in mandates to require these kinds of trains to have a special kind of braking system called Electronically controlled pneumatic brakes (ECP brakes) to reduce damage when a train derails. Many of the parts and technology on American trains are old or outdated and need some extra safety features. 

Norfolk Southern, along with the Association of American Railroads, among other rail companies, brought up pricing concerns regarding implementation of these new parts. Despite this, the mandate was put into effect for a short period. But after the 2016 election, these groups lobbied Republicans to get the laws repealed. Collectively, they pitched in roughly $6 million to this effort and succeeded.

While covering the town hall meeting, one local reporter, Evan Lambert was arrested for trespassing after being assaulted by the officers present. He caught the police and National Guard’s attention after reportedly speaking too loud. All charges have since been dropped as the charge was deemed to not have sufficient evidence.

Two other derailments have occurred since, one near Houston Texas, another Norfolk Southern train derailed near Detroit, and one here outside of Rockford spilling oil and contaminating local soil. The exact causes of each derailment have yet to be determined

Why should we let these huge corporations continue to get away with this? BP has spilled several thousands of barrels containing oil over the years and has only ever gotten fined. Going back to Ohio, their governor just made it so that natural gas is considered green energy. 

These companies do not care about the environment, they do not care about the people, the plants, or the animals who need to live. We as a people need to join together to vote into action stricter laws regarding environmental safety, and lessen corporate benefits, because our system clearly does not work.

Environmental activist groups like Earth Justice or Acespace have been working hard at helping push for legislation to fight pollution and other issues like climate change.They help push bills into Congress to protect our environment.

You don’t have to do much. Sign a petition, educate yourself, vote! We cannot sit idly by and watch this happen to our planet. 

This story was edited on Feb. 19 to include additional information.

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