EAST PALESTINE, Ohio (NewsNation) — President Joe Biden issued an executive order to protect the residents of East Palestine, Ohio, and hold railroad operator Norfolk Southern accountable over a freight train derailment earlier this year.
The order is meant “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 White House said.
Biden directed FEMA to designate a Federal Disaster Recovery Coordinator to oversee long-term recovery efforts. He also announced new steps to ensure Norfolk Southern continues meeting “its obligations to the community.”
Biden said the FEMA administrator can submit a recommendation if certain needs aren’t being addressed by Norfolk Southern.
He’s also asked for a report on the status of air, soil and water monitoring within the next 30 days.
“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,” the White House said.
Biden did not, however, approve a major disaster declaration that was requested by Gov. Mike DeWine earlier this year. It’s been one of the main demands from residents who say the federal government isn’t doing enough to help them.
Instead, the White House will hold open the request while the other reviews are conducted.
“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,” the executive order states.