Norfolk Southern Agrees to Use Ohio Businesses for East Palestine Cleanup

NILES, Ohio – Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost announced today that his office and Norfolk Southern have reached an agreement that stipulates the railroad company exclusively use Ohio-based businesses to clean up the site of a fiery train derailment last month in East Palestine.

Yost reiterated that Norfolk Southern is under a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency order to unilaterally clean the site, forcing them to spend “tens of millions of dollars” to bring the area into compliance.

The attorney general thought it a good idea that Norfolk Southern spend that money in Ohio and use statewide businesses that range from backhoe operators to accountants during the cleanup phase going forward, which could last two years.

“I am pleased to report that they said yes,” Yost told reporters during a press conference at the Eastwood Event Centre. Guy Coviello, president and CEO of the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber, joined Yost during the press event.

A representative of Norfolk Southern was initially scheduled to attend but did not show.

On Feb. 3, a Norfolk Southern train carrying hazardous materials derailed as it was passing through East Palestine. The disaster sent flames and toxic chemicals into the atmosphere after state officials approved a controlled burn, forcing the evacuation of thousands of residents in the village and across the state border in western Pennsylvania.

“We didn’t ask for this accident to happen in East Palestine,” Yost said. However, in the wake of the disaster, Yost said it is appropriate that Ohio-based businesses have first opportunity to benefit from the money Norfolk Southern is spending.

“I am excited that it is Ohio businesses – businesses right here in the [Mahoning] Valley – that are going to benefit from the money that has to be spent on cleanup and remediation from this accident,” Yost said.

To date, the attorney general’s office lists 15 Ohio companies that are engaged in the cleanup, including two from Columbiana County: Heritage Thermal Services and Vickery, both based in East Liverpool.

Norfolk Southern would be allowed to select an out-of-state vendor in the unlikely case that there were no Ohio companies that meet the expertise to complete the work. 

Coviello said there are potentially hundreds of companies in the Mahoning Valley that could be contracted for cleanup duties at the site, given the broad scope of work involved.

Simultaneously, the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber is planning a “Shop East Palestine” event to support retail business impacted by the derailment. The date of the event will be announced soon.

“We want to go in and buy some inventory, buy some gift cards, and we want to support the Fore East Palestine event that the Lake Club is hosting,” he said, noting that the inventory and gift cards could be used as prizes for that event.

Pictured at top: Guy Coviello, president and CEO of the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber, left, and Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.