Ohio’s govenor said Friday evening that he wants Norfolk Southern to pay East Palestine residents for the long-term impacts the February 3 toxic train derailment may have caused on the community.
The rail operator should pay residents selling their house the difference of what their home value used to be in comparison to what it’s worth now, nearly three months since the accident, Gov. Mike DeWine told CNN’s Jake Tapper. Norfolk Southern should also set up a fund specifically for impacts on residents that may arise in the future, including medical issues, that could be connected to the derailment, he added.
Since the accident, officials have said tests showed the air and municipal water were safe and allowed residents to return to their homes after a brief evacuation order. But those living in East Palestine have for months expressed concerns and frustration about both the economic impacts the crash had on their community and health problems, including rashes and nausea, they worry are linked to the derailment.
Norfolk Southern has vowed to help East Palestine fully recover and has said it will remain in the community for “as long as it takes.”
DeWine said Friday he has met with Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw and discussed those issues recently.
“One of the things that I said to him is, if people sell their house and they do not get what that house was worth before the train wreck, I think you owe them the difference,” DeWine said. “I fully expect them to pay for that.”
CNN reported on Friday about East Palestine residents who were concerned with their home values, including one woman whose home is just about a mile away from the derailment site and proved to be a “nightmare” to sell in the past few weeks.
When asked for comment on that report, Norfolk Southern directed CNN to a statement from mid-March: “We are committed to working with the community to provide tailored protection for home sellers if their property loses value due to the impact of the derailment.”
While the company has said it will work with the community to address concerns about losses in home values, details on the issue have been slow to materialize.
“Everything we’ve asked (Norfolk Southern) to pay for so far, they’ve paid for,” DeWine said Friday. “And we expect them to continue to do that.”
The governor said he also told Shaw he expects to see a fund set up “fairly quickly” for residents affected by the derailment, including those who may have health problems connected to the accident in the future.
“(Residents) need to be reassured,” DeWine said. “I think that’s another thing that we can do to help assure the people in the community that we’re going to do everything and that we’re not going away.”
Officials are continuing to conduct air, water and soil testing and have worked to set up a full-time clinic in the community in the aftermath to the derailment to address health concerns and to improve “the quality of life in the community,” the governor said.