Across-the-board accountability needed for Northfolk Southern tragedy

Feb 28, 2023 The Marietta Times

Aaron Dunbar

The corporate bombing of East Palestine is one of the most damning indictments of our entire political system that I have ever witnessed. There are no partisan divisions to delineate who is at fault here, but rather, a clear and stark dividing line between those at the top, and those at the bottom in our society.

The most obvious culprit here is, of course, Norfolk Southern. They’ve invested over $18 billion in stock buybacks over the past five years, deliberately choosing to rake in obscene profits instead of updating their Civil War-era braking systems.

Rules in place under the Obama administration would’ve required trains like those in East Palestine to be equipped with Electronically Controlled Pneumatic brakes, which would almost certainly have mitigated this catastrophe. Donald Trump and his deranged anti-regulation administration repealed these rules, however, proving the billionaire ex-President’s brazen disregard for the safety of everyday Americans.

Which isn’t to say that Republicans are solely responsible for this by any means. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has done nothing to rectify Trump’s flagrant disregard for the safety of our railways. He’s also lied about supposedly being unable to act meaningfully to address the braking issue, a notion promptly debunked by journalist David Sirota. Buttigieg has rightfully been dragged across the coals for his role in this tragedy, though I have a few guesses as to why the right suddenly cares so much more about safety regulations now than they did when Trump was the one rolling them back.

Next up we have our current, self-described “Pro-Union” President, who made it illegal for rail workers to strike last year, even as they warned of precisely these sorts of accidents occurring due to the cost-cutting negligence of rail companies.

Though once again, this was anything but a partisan feat. The majority of Congress stood behind Biden in this undertaking, including District 6 Representative Bill Johnson. A TikTok user by the name j05h.x confronted Johnson during a visit to East Palestine, specifically addressing the $18,000 in campaign contributions he’s received from Norfolk Southern over the years.

“We’re done with the conversation,” Johnson says immediately. “I just told you, we’re not gonna talk politics here. That’s not what this is about. Because we’re talking about what’s right for the people of East Palestine.”

I’m going to be bold here and say that what’s “right” for the people of East Palestine is not being nuked with chemicals by a corrupt rail company that’s buying off our Representatives in Congress.

Biden’s response to all of this has hardly inspired confidence–his Justice Department is currently poised to block lawsuits against Norfolk Southern and corporations like it in the Supreme Court.

It is worth noting, though, that Biden reportedly told Ohio Governor Mike DeWine that he would provide “anything you need” to address the tragedy.

DeWine’s outrageous response to this, when asked by a reporter, was “I will not hesitate to call him if we see a problem, but I’m not seeing it.”

It was at about this point in the so-called “Chernobyl 2.0” saga that I began banging my head against the wall.

Finally, tie all of this together with a mainstream media response that has been absolutely abysmal (outlets like the New York Times have major shareholders like BlackRock and Vanguard in common with Norfolk Southern) and a less than reassuring response from the EPA — if you have any connection whatsoever to our area’s C8 scandal, then you know how reliable it is when corporate stooges get to decide how much of a carcinogenic substance is safe for you and your children to ingest. We frankly have no idea what the scope of this damage is, how long it will last, or even how far it will spread, with anecdotal evidence suggesting that individuals as far off as Canada have been experiencing chloride-induced headaches.

We need major, across-the-board accountability for this, to put an end to the corruption of all parties involved, and ensure that nothing even remotely like this ever happens again.