Energy & Environment

EPA chief: ‘Unlawful’ for states to unilaterally reject East Palestine waste

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Michael Regan took aim Friday morning at states that have sought to block hazardous waste from the East Palestine, Ohio, train derailment, calling such efforts potentially illegal.

Regan, speaking to reporters on a call to provide updates on cleanup efforts, said the agency “has not imposed any conditions that have prevented shipments of waste to appropriate facilities” by the Norfolk Southern Railway.

“At the same time, some states may have sought to block acceptance of waste from the cleanup site. Some have even taken misinformed and misguided shots at EPA in the process. But it’s the people of East Palestine who are being hurt, and EPA will not stand for it,” he said.

“Under EPA’s order to Norfolk Southern, the company is required to dispose of contaminated waste from the site properly.”

Regan said that under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), commonly known as Superfund — which the agency invoked to force Norfolk Southern to cover all costs — the railway is expected to “consider all options” for waste disposal.

That includes “insisting that waste disposal companies honor their contracts with Norfolk Southern pursuing legal actions to force them to do so if they do not and paying whatever it costs to protect the residents,” Regan said.

The EPA chief said the agency has also issued alerts to state officials reminding them that states cannot unilaterally block shipments to certified, secure facilities from East Palestine.

“A state that blocks these waste shipments may be impeding Norfolk Southern’s ability to comply with obligations under CERCLA, as well as EPA’s order to Norfolk Southern, which is unlawful,” Regan told reporters. “We’ve been abundantly clear with our state partners that waste from East Palestine has been subject to more testing and more analysis … than other similar waste regularly accepted at facilities nationwide.”

Officials and lawmakers in numerous states have objected to the shipping of waste from the derailment, saying they were improperly briefed and have doubts about the safety of the process.

Michigan Reps. Debbie Dingell (D) and Rashida Tlaib (D) both expressed alarm at the shipment of some waste to facilities in their state, while Texas Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D) tweeted that “this process of dumping toxic waste in communities without prior notice to local cities and counties has to stop” after reports that a shipment was bound for the Houston area.

In the most recent case, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) announced he had blocked a shipment of contaminated soil to an Oklahoma facility.

Asked specifically about this case Friday, Regan said: “This is impermissible, and this is unacceptable.”

The Hill has reached out to Stitt’s office for comment.

Tags East Palestine EPA Michael Regan Michael Regan Norfolk Southern

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