Ohio Governor Mike DeWine received a grant from Norfolk Southern just weeks before one of the company’s trains derailed in eastern Palestine, resulting in a hazardous gas being released and burned over the village.
The company made a donation to DeWine totaling $10,000, the maximum amount allowed by law, according to an investigation by WSYX, a Columbus broadcaster that first reported the donations.
In total, DeWine has received $29,000 from Norfolk Southern since he first ran for governor in 2018. The broadcaster also found that the railroad company has donated $98,000 over the past six years to state and legislative candidates in Ohio.
“Virtually everything went to the Republicans, although Norfolk Southern protected its support for DeWine in 2018 with a $3,000 check to Democratic gubernatorial nominee Richard Cordray,” the report found.
The company also extensively lobbied Mr. DeWine and other state legislators during that time.
The report found that DeWine and other state officials were targeted 39 times over the last six years, and other state legislators were targeted 167 times during the same period.
Some of these meetings were intended to fight legislation that would require higher safety standards for train operators.
Norfolk Southern has been under scrutiny since the derailment.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg sent a letter to the company saying the NTSB was investigating the accident and warned on Tuesday that the federal government would pursue reforms that would increase the fine limit for rail companies and potentially require more staff. humans to operate the trains.
“Norfolk Southern must fulfill its commitment to make residents whole – and it must also fulfill its obligation to do whatever is necessary to stop endangering communities like East Palestine,” the transport secretary wrote in his letter. “The time is right for Norfolk Southern to take a leadership position in the rail industry, shifting to a posture that focuses on supporting, not thwarting, efforts to raise the bar for US rail safety regulation.”
The EPA also announced on Tuesday that it was using a binding order to force Norfolk Southern to remain in the area and clean up the village and surrounding areas under its supervision.
Prior to the order, Norfolk Southern voluntarily led the cleanup. The new order will oblige the company, under penalty of a fine, to continue working in the region and comply with the rules established by the EPA.