Governor DeWine urges President Biden to declare East Palestine train derailment a disaster

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Ohio Governor Mike DeWine has formally requested President Joe Biden to issue a Major Presidential Disaster Declaration in response to the Norfolk Southern train derailment and subsequent release of hazardous chemicals that occurred in East Palestine. The request was made today, which marked the deadline set by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) following an extension request.

In his letter to President Biden, Governor DeWine emphasized the need for a declaration to ensure that the state and federal governments can utilize all available resources to provide the necessary assistance to the affected community. Governor DeWine stated, “The possibility remains that the voluntary support provided by Norfolk Southern could at some point in the future cease, and this Declaration is needed to ensure that the State and Federal government use all resources available to step in and provide the community with needed assistance.”

The Ohio Emergency Management Agency has been in frequent communication with FEMA since the derailment occurred on February 3, 2023. They have discussed various matters, including the potential provision of aid through FEMA. However, FEMA has consistently advised that such assistance would likely not be granted due to the absence of any reported unmet needs in the state. Up until now, Norfolk Southern has voluntarily covered the costs associated with the damage caused by the train derailment, reimbursing affected citizens as well as state and local governments. Nevertheless, concerns remain regarding the potential cessation of Norfolk Southern’s voluntary aid, which could necessitate FEMA assistance. Furthermore, there are ongoing costs that have yet to be identified.

Governor DeWine highlighted the unique nature of this incident and explained that the state is still in the process of identifying current needs and assessing the future impacts the disaster will have on individuals and the community. He stated, “In addition to the physical and mental health impacts, there have been economic impacts. Homeowners and businesses have experienced a decline in property value and a loss of business as people are hesitant to come into the community.”

The East Palestine train derailment has caused significant disruptions and challenges for the affected residents and businesses. Governor DeWine’s request for a Major Presidential Disaster Declaration signals the importance of federal assistance in helping the community recover and rebuild. The declaration, if approved, would unlock additional resources and support from the federal government, providing much-needed relief to those impacted by the incident.