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Ohio Gov. DeWine asks Biden for major disaster declaration for East Palestine after train derailment

New Ohio train derailment details
After Ohio train derailment, fire chief says he had 13 minutes to decide to burn toxic chemicals 03:11

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine on Monday asked President Biden to issue a Major Presidential Disaster Declaration over the Norfolk Southern train derailment in East Palestine, a tool to guarantee federal aid in the future. 

The Ohio community is still dealing with the environmental and health-related fallout from the chemical disaster propelled by the Feb. 3 derailment. Monday was the deadline the Federal Emergency Management Agency set for DeWine to make the request, after the agency gave DeWine an extension on March 7 to decide whether to make the request. 

"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," DeWine said in his letter to the president.  

Train Derailment Ohio Cleanup
This photo taken with a drone on Feb. 4, 2023, shows portions of a Norfolk Southern freight train still on fire after it derailed on Feb. 3, in East Palestine, Ohio.  Gene J. Puskar / AP

DeWine's office expressed concern that FEMA's help could still be needed if Norfolk Southern's voluntary aid subsides, and there could be future costs that have yet to be identified. 

"Because of the unique nature of this incident, the state is still working to identify current needs and evaluate the future impacts this disaster will have on individuals and the community," DeWine wrote. "The incident had immediate physical and mental health effects on the community, and the Ohio Department of Health engaged with the Department of Health and Human Services to establish a clinic in the community. However, the long-term health impacts are unknown. In addition to the physical and mental health impacts, there have been economic impacts. Homeowners and businesses have seen property value decline and loss of business as people are hesitant to come into the community." 

DeWine, a Republican, said the state will comply with any applicable cost-sharing requirements associated with specific programs. 

Mr. Biden said he would visit East Palestine, although he has yet to do so. The heads of the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Transportation have visited the community. 

After the train derailment, DeWine said Mr. Biden contacted him and offered any federal assistance necessary. 

"Look, the president called me and said, 'Anything you need.' I have not called him back after that conversation," DeWine said at the time. "We will not hesitate to do that if we're seeing a problem or anything, but I'm not seeing it."

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