President Biden directs FEMA to appoint a Federal Disaster Recovery Coordinator
to oversee long-term recovery efforts in the community
The President also announces new steps to ensure Norfolk Southern continues meeting its obligations to the community
Since the onset of the Norfolk Southern train derailment, the Biden-Harris Administration has mobilized a robust, whole-of-government response to support the people of East Palestine, Ohio, and nearby affected communities. Under President Biden’s leadership, within hours of the derailment, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) deployed a team to East Palestine to support state and local emergency and environmental response efforts. The Department of Transportation (DOT) also arrived on scene to investigate what led to the derailment, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) closely coordinated with the Governor, Ohio Emergency Management Agency and Federal and local partners, and Federal officials went door to door to check on families.
President Biden pledged he would make Norfolk Southern clean up its mess in East Palestine, and he meant it. EPA ordered Norfolk Southern to clean up environmental damage caused by the derailment, including cleaning or disposing of contaminated soil and water resources, as well as reimbursing the government’s response costs. The EPA and state and local partners are continuing to test the air, soil, and water for dangerous contaminants. The Biden-Harris Administration will continue to ensure Norfolk Southern complies with the Federal Unilateral Administrative Order it was issued to cover all cleanup costs, and Federal officials remain on the ground and will continue to closely monitor conditions in the affected communities for as long as it may take to ensure the contamination is fully addressed.
As part of his commitment to the people of East Palestine, President Biden is today issuing an Executive Order to ensure that Norfolk Southern continues to be held accountable for this disaster, to address any of the disaster’s long-term effects, and to ensure federal assistance is available to affected communities should needs develop that are not met by Norfolk Southern.
The Executive Order directs the following Federal agency actions:
Federal Emergency Management Agency
- Within five days of the Executive Order, FEMA will designate a Federal Disaster Recovery Coordinator to oversee long-term recovery efforts in the affected communities. The Coordinator will conduct a comprehensive assessment of any unmet needs that are not addressed by Norfolk Southern and would qualify for Federal assistance. The Coordinator will also collaborate with the Federal, State and local governments, the private sector and voluntary, faith-based and community organizations supporting the recovery.
- The State of Ohio’s request for a major disaster declaration pursuant to the Stafford Act will be held open. If the FEMA Administrator receives new information from the State, including needs that are not being addressed by Norfolk Southern, she will immediately submit a recommendation on whether a major disaster declaration is warranted.
Environmental Protection Agency
- EPA will continue to direct removal of contaminated soils and wastewater from the derailment site, in compliance with state and Federal law. In addition, EPA will ensure that any remaining contamination in surface stream sediments is addressed, and that air and water monitoring continue.
- Within 30 days, EPA will provide a report to the President on the status of air, soil, and water monitoring and whether Norfolk Southern continues to comply with the Federal Unilateral Administrative Order to address the imminent and substantial endangerment caused by the company’s derailment. Moving forward, EPA will provide the President with an updated report every 60 days until all cleanup, assessment, and monitoring work required by EPA’s Order has been completed.
Health and Human Services Administration
- Within 60 days, HHS will provide the President with a report summarizing key conclusions from the public health testing and assessment that has been conducted to date, and the resources HHS and the CDC have provided to address any health conditions related to the derailment.
- In coordination with the affected States, HHS will continue to monitor the public health consequences of the derailment, including to determine whether any acute medical conditions develop. If such medical conditions develop, HHS and EPA will each evaluate whether a public health emergency should be declared.
- HHS will provide technical assistance to the States of Ohio and Pennsylvania in the event that either State considers submitting a proposal for services through the Medicaid program for individuals affected by the derailment.
Department of Transportation
- Within 60 days, DOT will provide the President with a report detailing the actions the Department is taking in response to the East Palestine train derailment. This report will be updated within 120 days of the final National Transportation Safety Board investigation, and DOT will provide the President a preliminary set of follow-on actions to ensure accountability.
Official news published at https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2023/09/20/fact-sheet-president-biden-issues-executive-order-to-protect-people-in-east-palestine-ohio-and-nearby-communities-and-continue-to-hold-norfolk-southern-accountable/