Legislation to study East Palestine health moves forward



(The Center Square) – East Palestine, Ohio, residents are a step closer to federal funds that would create a long-term study on the health impacts of the Norfolk Southern train derailment that happened nearly 16 months ago.

The East Palestine Health Impact Monitoring Act recently passed the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions with bipartisan support.

If it eventually becomes law, it would establish a comprehensive, long-term study on the derailment’s public health impact. It would give grants, contracts and cooperative agreements to universities and research institutions in the region to do voluntary health studies and give a final report in five years.

Reps. Dave Joyce, R-Ohio, and Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio, introduced companion legislation in the House.

“Families in East Palestine deserve to understand the long-term health implications of the Norfolk Southern train derailment,” U.S. Sen. J.D. Vance said in a statement. “This legislation will empower trusted and respected research institutions to give residents the answers they deserve. I’m thankful we had an overwhelming, bipartisan vote to pass it through committee and that it’s been introduced by our colleagues in the House of Representatives. There’s more work to be done but passing this bill would be a big step in the right direction.”

Vance and Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost also recently criticized the U.S. Department of Justice’s settlement with Norfolk Southern, saying it came before the National Transportation and Safety Board’s investigation is complete.

“This federal settlement, reached prior to the completion of the NTSB’s investigation, risks undercompensating the residents of East Palestine,” Vance and Yost said in a joint statement. “With its decision to reach a settlement now, the DOJ may have sacrificed its opportunity to use the NTSB’s findings to impose maximum leverage on those responsible for any potential wrongdoing. We are reviewing the now-public settlement proposal, but with so much unknown at this time, it is difficult to assess its impact. We will continue to do everything in our power to ensure those impacted by the derailment are made whole and to ensure anyone responsible for wrongdoing is held accountable.”

Norfolk Southern agreed to pay $310 million for the derailment that spewed toxic chemicals into the air and water near the Pennsylvania border.

The settlement comes after the Norfolk Southern train jumped the tracks on Feb. 3, 2023, just outside the small rural town in eastern Ohio. In the following days, railroad officials made what critics considered a rash decision to burn five derailed cars carrying vinyl chloride to prevent a possible explosion.

In April, Norfolk Southern agreed to settle a $600 million class action suit to resolve claims within a 20-mile radius of the accident site.

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