Who’s going to end up paying for the East Palestine, Ohio train derailment? Well, if Michigan Democrat Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has anything to say about it, part of the money could be coming from you, the taxpayer.
According to a news release from a Republican Michigan state House representative, a $750 million package of state spending on major corporations could include $15 million for Norfolk Southern, the company that operated the train that derailed in the town on the Ohio/Pennsylvania border on Feb. 3.
The derailment caused the spillage of vinyl chloride and other dangerous chemicals — something that prompted a controlled burn-off by environmental officials and has many concerned about the after-effects on the local environment.
It also came after a Feb. 16 Norfolk Southern derailment in Van Buren Township, Michigan — which, according to USA Today, wasn’t carrying any hazardous materials. No injuries were reported in that incident, where 30 cars went off the rails.
In a news release from the office of state Rep. Jim DeSana, the Republican’s office said he “objected to another corporate welfare proposal from the Whitmer administration that includes spending $750 million on infrastructure surrounding a proposed Ford EV battery plant in Marshall.
“Of the funding, up to $15 million could be earmarked to help the troubled Norfolk Southern Railway Company expand its footprint in Michigan.”
“It’s always a bad idea to expect taxpayers to foot the bill for corporate welfare projects – but this proposal is particularly egregious,” DeSana is quoted as saying in the briefing.
“Norfolk Southern has had two dangerous train derailments in the Midwest this month – one in Michigan and another that leaked hazardous chemicals that are still causing serious concerns for families in Ohio. Yet Gov. Whitmer is asking us to ignore all that and hand over taxpayer dollars to help Norfolk Southern grow in Michigan.
“Considering its recent safety record, the government should be giving this company special scrutiny – not special favors.”
According the Detroit News, the money — which is supposed to be used for “rail improvements” — is part of a three-quarters-of-a-billion dollar spending package for an electric vehicle battery plant that the state has already sunk $1 billion into.
However, the spending comes as the railroad could be fined up to $70,000 a day by the Environmental Protection Agency if the EPA finds it was derelict in cleaning up the toxic chemicals that were spilled during the East Palestine, Ohio train wreck, CNN reported Wednesday.
Over 2,000 people had to be evacuated from homes in both Ohio and Pennsylvania — and both states are currently investigating the railroad, in addition to the EPA breathing down their neck.
Several other Michigan state Republicans spoke out against the plan given the potential corporate welfare handout to Norfolk Southern in the wake of recent derailments.
Former GOP gubernatorial candidate Tudor Dixon took to Twitter and said “Millions in MI taxpayer dollars should not be going to Norfolk Southern while investigations into the company’s two recent derailments — one resulting in an environmental crisis — are ongoing.”
Millions in MI taxpayer dollars should not be going to Norfolk Southern while investigations into the company’s two recent derailments – one resulting in an environmental crisis – are ongoing. https://t.co/OehB9SsYdO
— Tudor Dixon (@TudorDixon) February 22, 2023
State Rep. Andrew Fink agreed: “Until a full investigation of the Norfolk Southern derailments in Ohio and Michigan is complete, I can’t believe we’re even discussing appropriating $15,000,000 to expand their operations in Michigan,” the Republican told The Midwesterner, a local Michigan digital outlet.
“I was under the impression Gov. Whitmer’s administration was focused on environmental issues, but her willingness to cut this company a check in the midst of these problems says otherwise,” said state Rep. Jamie Thompson, a Republican, in a statement.
“Norfolk Southern needs to be clear about what happened and why this is happening. There needs to be accountability. The company needs to be transparent about what it’s doing to protect the public, address these issues and prevent future incidents before a single cent of our hard-earned tax dollars is handed over to help it grow its business in Michigan.”
While the National Transportation Safety Board’s preliminary report didn’t offer an exact cause for the overheated bearing, it noted the train was traveling at slightly under the speed limit of 50 miles per hour at the time of the accident and that video from a residential camera “showed what appeared to be a wheel bearing in the final stage of overheat failure moments before the derailment.”
It’s unclear whether or not Norfolk Southern bears responsibility for the bearing failure or will end up paying the EPA for how it handled the cleanup of the toxic plume of chemicals.
But if they do and you’re a Michigan resident, Gretchen Whitmer could make sure your money makes their lives $15 million easier.
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