The Ohio train derailment with toxic chemicals is a serious situation with little reporting

Chemicals burning at East
Palestine, Ohio. Photo via AP.

By Robert Willmann

After a train derailed at East Palestine, Ohio on 3 February 2023, and toxic chemicals were released and burned, there was little reporting on what was and is a dangerous situation. Finally, after 11 days of virtual silence, some national stories have appeared [1].

The culprit is Norfolk Southern Corporation, a publicly traded company on the New York Stock Exchange under ticker name NSC and based in Atlanta, Georgia. The Wall Street Journal newspaper says that Norfolk has 227,780,000 shares of stock outstanding, and that the stock market value of the company is $54,600,000,000 ($54.6 billion) as of early this afternoon [2]. Initially, this company offered only a paltry $25,000 — or $5,000 per person — to the residents of the small Ohio town [3]. Now that some information is leaking out (so to speak) about how bad the situation is, Norfolk is pivoting and is saying that it is putting in more than $1 million to help the town, which is still nothing [4].

Several days ago, a report emerged of problems with dead chickens and fish [5].

Meanwhile, the federal Secretary of Transportation, Pete Buttigieg, must still be trying to figure out how a male homo sapien can breast feed a baby, instead of doing his job of conducting a sweeping and vigorous investigation of the train derailment.

And the FBI? Instead of trying to make cases by using entrapment against so-called white supremacists, it would better serve the public by looking at real harmful events such as this disaster involving a train. After all, there are criminal laws about environmental matters [6].

We will see if a serious transportation and environmental problem will break through a coverup.







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39 Responses to The Ohio train derailment with toxic chemicals is a serious situation with little reporting

  1. Fourth and Long says:

    I think you overlooked or possibly didn’t know that “male homo sapien” US Transportation secretary Pete Buttigieg is the proud (adopting) father of twin children — Augustus “Gus” and Penelope Rose — with his male homo sapien “husband” Chasten. That makes breastfeeding and even bottle-feeding twice the challenge. Then there’s his skills as a former Navy Intelligence officer in landlocked Afghanistan, never more in demand than now, when our nation is having its air quality deviously and surreptitiously sampled from high above Lake Huron by suspects such as Chinese weather balloonists and Martians. Has he ever considered that whoever is sampling Midwestern American air quality, not far in fact from the crash location of a highly toxic and deadly chemical spill and fire, is possibly thereby doing more of a humanitarian scientific service for the people of our nation than he as Transportation Secretary is doing while trying to breastfeed little Gus and Penelope Rose?

    General Mark A Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the US Armed Forces, has reported that at least one hugely expensive sidewinder missile, fired at an unidentified object over Lake Huron, has missed (its target). And now Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg is missing. (Please don’t take “missing” in a derogatory fashion or regard it as a slur. An unmarried woman, or Miss, while going about her affairs or duties, is not said to be “Missing,” according to proper English usage). So we have a missile missing, and a missing male homo sapien US Transportation Secretary. And apparently, the entities who are in fact sampling air quality in regions where one would think, expect and hope that responsible people, male homo sapien betrothed to male homo sapien or not, are having their air sampling equipment shot down. A very unusual concatenation of circumstances and perils. Penelope Rose and young Augustus “Gus” Buttigieg may be imbibing polluted baby formula for all anyone knows.

  2. Lesly says:

    A local journalist goes over the PSR system:

    The same video is embedded in a post by an anon Reddit user who went into further detail:

    Now there’s a push for centralizing everything and making each individual train as long as possible. They don’t want to have tiny short trains grabbing one-off cars; they want a big long train that drops off giant strings of cars all at once without relying on the traditional rail yards. This means you need to wait for them to decide to grab your stuff – maybe your area gets served once a week by a longer train with 2-3 locomotives instead of running that small 1-locomotive train out daily.

    This causes delays on your end, since now you’re at the mercy of whenever some corporate entity decides that there’s a big enough backlog of stuff to warrant making a big train. If you’re too small or out of the way, they’ll ignore you entirely because it’s not profitable enough for them. Lots of small branch lines are out of service and dying because PSR doesn’t service them – and because the freight train companies own the tracks, no rail-based competitors can step in to offer better service.


    Someone didn’t inspect the train cars well enough – because there are hundreds of them and staffing levels have been cut, meaning there are fewer people to do inspections and less time to do the inspections in. I saw a video the other where a rail worker was being interviewed. He said the maintenance guys used to have 3 minutes to inspect a train car; now they get 90 seconds. When something gets missed, it causes a hotbox, which can set the train wheels on fire. There are detectors which automatically detect hotboxes and alert the train crew, but either they weren’t maintained and no longer worked or they were ignored/missed by an overworked crew.

    Eventually when a hotbox occurs the wheels will fail, the car will derail, and now whatever is inside the car is exposed to an ignition source. Supposedly the tank cars are supposed to be protected from such things – but evidently they were not, either because of more maintenance failures or because of how the train derailed. Either way, some leaked out, it blew up, and now you have a much much bigger problem.

    And it can all be traced back to PSR. They’ll throw the maintenance guy or the train crew under the bus, but it’s not his fault – it’s corporate’s.

    Biden shouldn’t have asked Congress to step in. It is not in the public’s interest to socialize environment disasters so companies can maintain profitability. Congress needs to enforce anti-trust laws or companies like Norfolk Southern should be allowed to die before they get to whine about regulation.

    • blue peacock says:

      This is part and parcel of the financialization of the economy. Management’s compensation is largely in stock. As a result all they care about is the stock price, hence leveraging the balance sheet to buyback stock is the only thing that the C-suite care about. Of course the PE folks who effectively own most of corporate America also only care about the stock price as they have played an instrumental role in the market consolidation aided and abetted by the Fed.

      Regulatory capture is so deeply embedded that looking to regulators to step in is a fools errand. And the politicians from both parties are also completely bought as they also only care about growing their personal wealth. How wealthy did Pelosi, McConnell, et al get serving in Congress with a meager salary for decades?

      • Bill Roche says:

        What is “the financialization of an economy”? Stock buy backs increase demand for, and value of stock for all shareholders. Since shareholders risk their ppty to become part owners in any company they all hope for a grand rtn on that risk. A stock price increase offers them a chance to cash out and enjoy the reward occasioned by their risk. We can see how people, by investing in one idea versus another, send their caapital to that idea in hopes that its product will be valued by the public. We could end all this and have a centrally planned economy but people would lose the oppty to vote w/their dollars for the products they like and the investments they will risk. Is govt central control of an economy preferable to private control of creation, investment, and purchase? If an economy is measured by the wealth it produces the answer is no.

    • Fourth and Long says:

      Precision Scheduled Railroading. Try Profit Scheduled.

      Incredible. And they shoot down air monitoring equipment. Understandably. Wouldn’t want the data to be leaked to American victims. I recently saw the extent of the mushroom cloud they released by blowing up the cars containing the highly toxic chemicals on a surprisingly good Tucker Carlson clip. It’s vast, huge, ominously large and no doubt swirling everywhere by now. When the Bhopal disaster occured in India in December 1989 it was nonstop news for a long time. 3,000deaths, 16,000 claimed. They’re also saying the North Stream gas pipeline detonations caused a colossal environmental disaster.

      Probably far better photos are available of the toxic cloud. Would Tucker be carrying on about it if it was happening under a republican president?

      If lesbian or transexual fish and wildlife were injured, we’d hear from the Very Silly party (Dem) poste haste.
      Tucker Carlson: This is Chaos.

      • LeaNder says:

        I found it interesting that the US congress stopped a strike protesting against conditions. … I don’t think our political cadres could over here

        But yes, sadly gone are the day when everyone’s sexual orientations were discreetly closeted away.

      • TTG says:


        There are excellent photos of the toxic cloud out there, apocalyptic photos. I thought there was good coverage of this story for the first 24 hours. No one died and no one got sick in the last week so the story died. Maybe it’ll pick up now that the extent of the environmental damage becomes clearer. But until people start dying, this story won’t lead.

        It’s time to support unions over management and share holders. Unions usually are the only ones pushing for more safety and more regulations guaranteeing that safety. Ole Bernie should be raising holy hell about this.

        • Fred says:


          Railroad companies have been unionized for decades. Did it also escape your notice that the administration effectively forced a contract on some of those unions and companies to avoid “supply chain” disruptions less than 4 months ago ? Some redditor’s complaint about feeder line service or singular instance of “inspections” not happening being the cause is great for venting emotions but not for determining the cause of the derailment of this particular train.

          The VOCs in some of those rail cars are highly toxic with long term potential of causing cancer. The response, apparently due to fire and potential BLEVE of one or more tank cars was to dump it all out. The EPA may have signed off on that but it was probably the wrong thing, and certainly was not controlled well.

          Blaming Buttegeig’ s homosexuality is a good way to give Biden a pass yet again. The transportation secretary should be fired for negligence and incompetence. The Federal Railroad Administration is in his department. Fire the head of that too. “Featured News” December 22. On the job folks, on the job.

          • TTG says:


            Railroads, like many other US industries, have have long been unionized but those unions have been losing their clout against management with the help of industry bought politicians. The unions have also been long demonized as socialists. The Republicans should now be able to tear the Democrats and the Biden administration a new one over their forcing that contract on the railroad unions. Unfortunately that would put the Republicans on the side of socialist unions and government regulation.

            It will be interesting to see if there is a rush to reregulation from the DOT/FRA. Will there be any bipartisan support for such reregulation? I have my doubts.

          • Fred says:


            Joe from Scranton, “good union jobs” Joe, forced that contract? How can that be? But that isn’t the cause of a derailment nor of a regulatory decision to release all those toxic chemicals – two days later. Re-regulating a regulated railroad isn’t even decent disinformation.

  3. TV says:

    Buttigieg is just another incompetent and clueless political appointee.
    TTG is correct; only the unions care about rail safety.
    Management is driven by the operating ratio, fewer people, longer trains.
    This is the ultimate result.
    As for Bernie, no clue. He’s only good for railing against billionaires.
    No more railing against millionaires, since he is one.

    • Fred says:

      What do these people do for their money?

      • TTG says:


        The FRA can only enforce what laws and regulations that are passed by Congress. Congress has been deregulating the railroads since the 1980 Staggers Rail Act.

        • Fred says:


          How dare congress let railroads and shippers sign contracts on rates without the government tellling them what it should cost. Please help explain the Staggers Rail Act removed regulatory oversight on movement of toxic chemicals, railroad crossing signaling, labor hours, you know,things that might be as important to this particular accident?

          Joe Biden, 81 million ballot Joe, is president. His executives screwed up and so did a number of career bureaucrats running agencies at the state and federal level.

          PS you better remind the FRA that all that administrative law they implement via regulations they create aren’t passed by Congress. It might be a while before the Supreme Court gets around to agreeing that that view.

          • TTG says:


            Your point seems to be the derailment and ensuing environmental disaster is Biden’s fault. By that kind of reasoning Trump was responsible for the Covid disaster with a million dead Americans and an economic catastrophe. Both those conclusions are absurd.

            In this case, it was Governor DeWine who was in charge. Biden called him to see if he needed help. DeWine never returned the call and did not declare a disaster until days later and ask for federal help. You’re right about the culpability of executives and bureaucrats, but you left out the Norfolk Southern executives. They are most responsible for this disaster and will fight the hardest to do as little as possible to mitigate the damage done.

            The Staggers Rail Act and actually one a few years before that just got the ball rolling on deregulation. That act itself proved beneficial in drastically lowering prices in the rail industry, but the ensuing deregulation led to dangerously long trains, far less safety measures and labor practices that did contribute to this derailment and many others.

          • Fredrick says:


            “You’re right about the culpability of executives and bureaucrats”

            Thanks for the handwashing and strawmen arguements. Remind me of where Biden was for all those railroad deregulating years and how OSHA and the EPA and even the FRA were hamstrung by the rate deregulations. The response to the accident has been a disaster and yes Biden is responsible for picking those running those agencies. Like his predecessor has hasn’t fired any of them for their negligence. (Fauci, Birx etc. but then maybe he didn’t think they were lying to him.)

            The gay transportation secretary whose first professional act on the job was to take his entitled 60 days adoption leave. Proof that he, and his boss, view these positions as accomplishments to be enjoyed, not opportunities for duties to be performed. (quoting our host). By all means hold DeWine responsible for the conduct of Ohio state agencies. The NS executives too, especially the ones running the maintence operations and standards.

          • TTG says:


            The EPA, OSHA and FRA weren’t hamstrung by rate deregulation. They were hamstrung by a failure to legislate for improved safety. Much of what was legislated was rolled back by legislative and executive action. A prime example was Obama’s effort to require improved rail car braking (ECP). That requirement was rolled back by Trump. Mayor Pete can be faulted for failing to push for reinstatement of those ECP regulations and trying to get them expanded to all hazardous/flammable material carried by rail. We’ll see if the NTSB recommends those changes and Congress can pass such legislation. My guess is that rail industry money will stop such safety improvements.

  4. Leith says:

    The third resurrection of the robber barons is upon us. As quoted by a former Army 1st Sergeant: They “Work you to death. Dump their shit in your air and water. Cheat you.”

    All the while using rail line right-of-ways stolen from landowners by eminent domain and shady business practices.

  5. jim ticehurst.. says:

    I Am Focused on Investigating The Train Derailment as an Act Of Terrorism
    And Deliberate Sabotage Of This Toxic Train As The Perfect Target For
    What The Chinese Are Mocking As Americas “Chernobyl Moment…”

    Timeline..Motive…China,s Balloon Detected Exposed in Media..End of January..
    into Februrary 1….2..3. (3rd).Date of Train Derailment ..In Retaliation …Because they
    Knew The President Would Shoot The Balloon Down.. DONE Feb 4th..2023
    So This Train Sabotage done FEB 3..2023..(Easy Target ..) Among Many..

    This Train Wreck was Violent..Not Caused By Minor Damage to Tracks…It
    Was Designed ToPropel The Train Off The Tracks..With Max Damage…And Would Be Expert Sabotage..By Cells In Place all across America..Like Al Quaeda was…

    There were Many Russian Known. Cells…and Now Many Chinese..And Others..Look at whos coming
    across the from Mexico..Staging…Planning…Training..

    The Train Derailed in the Middle of a Town..Damage to Life..Anaimals,,Property..Water..and Spreading as We Sit Here.. TOXIC..Deadly..

    I Suspect Terrorist Put This In Thier Playbook..After Seeing The Movie..
    “WHITE NOISE”..Staring Adam Driver..Released August 31…2022…About
    A Toxic Train Wreck and Cloud release..And Effects..And Human Reactions..
    Exactly Like THIS..

    THAT Movie Filmed in a Town,
    ,Exposed and Contaminated..
    JUST LIKE this Current Event..

    I Have No Doubt The Chinese Put that in a Play Book..,,There are Different Ways
    To PAYBACK..They Knew this was One..

    • TTG says:

      jim ticehurst,

      Chinese sabotage is pretty damned unlikely. From 1990 to 2021, there have been 54,539 accidents in which a train derailed in the US. That’s an average of 1,704 derailments per year. This derailment appears to be the result of a bearing failure on a tanker car truck which caused the wheels to lock up.

      Legislation passed under Obama made it a legal requirement for trains carrying hazardous flammable materials, like this one, to have electronically controlled pneumatic (ECP) brakes. ECP brakes help prevent such cascading derailments like this one. That legislation was rescinded in 2017 by Trump. Chalk this one up to the invisible hand of under regulated free markets and the politicians owned by those free markets.

      • Fred says:


        Air brakes have been on rail cars since Westinghouse invented them more than a century ago. What “legislation ” passed by Obama got rescinded by Trump? The report from 2020 was that this was almost complete on most of the major freight lines.

        • TTG says:


          Air brakes have been around since the late 1800s, but the ECB was a huge improvement over the existing braking system. ECB can stop a train much faster than the older system. It can also brake all rail cars simultaneously greatly reducing the risk of cascading derailments like the one in Ohio. The older system can only kick in one car at a time in a derailment. It is different thing altogether from the positive train control talked about in that WaPo article.

          • Fred says:


            “Could enhance” does not mean WILL prevent nor does it mean that is the cause of this accident, (your first linked article says, without evidence, it was a wheel bearing failure) and it certainly does not explain “The sequence of events began a decade ago in the wake of a major uptick in derailments….” All of those predated this by how long?

            The reports I read, which are scant, are that the government (state/fed/local is unclear) ordered the tanks breached to release the chemicals to prevent ‘explosion’. That’s not the cause of the derailment nor does it actually explain what was happening at the site. What was actually ‘on fire’ that would cause a bleve? It sure couldn’t be the grease on a set of railcar wheels.

          • TTG says:


            The evidence pointing towards wheel bearing failure being the cause of the derailment and ignition of the fire is a video showing “what appears to be a wheel bearing in the final stage of overheat failure moments before the derailment,” according to the NTSB. They’re also looking at videos from “two local businesses reported by local media to show glowing or flames from the train prior to the derailment.” A definitive answer won’t be announced for months.

  6. elkern says:

    The top 10 stockholders (totaling about 35%) of Norfolk Southern are all Financial Engineering Service Corps:

    – Vanguard Group
    – JP Morgan Investment Management
    – BlackRock Fund Advisors
    – SSgA Funds Management
    – Lazard Asset Management (under 2 names)
    – Capital Research & Management (under 2 names)
    – Goode Capital Management
    – Wells Fargo Clearing Services

    PSR is designed to “maximize shareholder value”, not deliver goods safely & on time.

    This is a problem that’s been brewing for decades. Pete Buttigeig was *born* two years after the Staggers Rail Act (mentioned above by TTG) was passed, so blaming this on him is silly.

    The root problems are (1) modern Mammonist Corporate culture, (2) Regulatory Capture, and (3) a campaign finance system which encourages people & corporations with lotsa money to corrupt our elected representatives.

    The proximate cause of this disaster was an overheated wheel bearing (apparently visible on some CCTV footage captured by unrelated businesses miles before the train derailed!).

    The intermediate causes are pretty much all direct results of the way that NS has prioritized cost-savings over safety & delivery in implementing PSR: hurried inspections, longer trains (including details about the arrangement of heavy & light cars), etc.

    • Fred says:


      Sounds like Americans saving money in 401K plans that are managed by those entities are all to blame. How many accidents, spills, or deaths does it take to fail to “maximize shareholder value”? Is there a special course for that somewhere? It sure wasn’t in my MBA classes nor in my corporate experience. But by all means end Capitalism now! Biden’s sure doing a bang-up job on that. Definitely don’t hold the Secretary of Transportation responsible for effectively administering the department he was appointed to run. It’s much more emotionally satisfying to blame the usual suspects.

      The proximate cause for this was the state and federal officials performing a ‘controlled detonation’ of one of the rail car tanks TWO DAYS after the derailment. By all means blame the corporate structure, and greed, but not the damned bureaucrats involved at the accident scene. If they had two days they could certainly have brought in empty tanker trucks and siphoned that material off.

      • TTG says:


        It was a controlled release, not a controlled detonation. Someone with cast iron balls drilled holes in already burning tank cars to release the toxic chemicals for a controlled burn. The huge black smoke cloud got much of its apocalyptic appearance due to a temperature inversion over the area. This was all done to avoid a massive uncontrolled explosion that was predicted to throw toxic debris a mile high.

        Your idea of bringing in empty tanker trucks and siphoning off the toxic chemicals sounds like a better idea. I wonder if that occurred to Governor DeWine and his state team, the Norfolk Southern officials and others including the NTSB, EPA and FRA on scene.

      • Bill Roche says:

        Yes let’s blame capitalism; the practice of using money to make more money. Look around the world and over time and one will see that socialism produces less wealth for a society to use. Still the answer to economic/environmental problems is to regulate industry (the “golden goose”). Capitalism has not been unrestrained since the Sherman and Clayton Anti Trust Acts. Try to get a license for a shoe shine parlor in NYS and you’ll have to get an environmental impact statement. The constant in both capitalism and socialism is people. People sometimes make mistakes. That’s been my experience.

      • Fred says:


        The story has changed multiple times since the derailment. Now it is ‘controlled release’ two days afterwards to prevent an explosion. Did it cross your mind to ask what was buring for two full days that would need to vent one or more tank cars? Lots of this story makes little sense. Tank cars have both vent valves and drain valves on them. It makes even less sense that holes would have to be drilled into such a railcar.

  7. Babeltuap says:

    Good video on the issue with the 4 class 1 railways:

    Basically the same thing Ford did with the model T. Cornered the market, treated workers like garbage and refused to innovate.

    • Bill Roche says:

      Ford paid twice what workers were making daily. 5.00 p/d was unheard of in 1906. That wage kept labor on the job and paid them enough so they could buy the cars they were making. Ford thereby expanded his market, workers had jobs, and ancilliary industries thrived. As to innovation the Model T stuck as a standard b/c it WAS. Standardization kept parts the same, costs down, price down, and profits up. Ford and his shareholders (who risked their money taking a chance on him) made a lot of money, his workers had work, on the gubmint got a lot of tax money.

      • Babeltuap says:

        He only did that when the workers started quitting in droves, not before. He had to increase pay because the work sucked that bad which is what is going on right now with railroad workers. Their complaint right now is the same complaint; horrible hours and constantly on call. Accidents will increase in that environment.

        • Bill Roche says:

          Your right! So Ford innovated and most industrialists hated him for his higher wages but it helped his manufacturing situation. Ford wasn’t risking his time effort and capitol on philanthropy. He was there to make money. So were his investors, workers, and govt taxman, and BTW, the consumer who wanted his product for the lowest price for them.

          • Fred says:

            Ford is evil incarnate. His mass assembly of internal combustion engine using automobiles has brought all humanity to the brink of extinction due to Climate Change. (Not to be confused with the previous ‘global warming’ that made fraudster Al Gore rich) The assets of the family and company should be siezed in reparation for the damage done. End mobility now!

          • Babeltuap says:

            Bill I like Ford but again, his pay was horrible for employees. It got so bad nobody wanted to work on the line so he finally raised his hourly rate where almost nobody did not.

            As for innovation, initially sure but after he cornered the market no. The car stayed about the same for a long time. His son was the one that forced him to do real innovation to the car and future cars.

            It’s a good comparison with the 4 main cornered market railways. Awful pay for a demanding job away from home and no innovation enough to matter going on 50 plus years. The system needs serious upgrading and pay increases with a focus on life work balance.

  8. Gordon Reed says:

    Speaking of environmental disasters with little reporting and a cover up what about the sabotage of Nordstream.

    • Babeltuap says:

      What about it? With no formidable military, a country claiming they are a sovereign goes out the window. Germany answers to the US. If they have a problem with pipeline shenanigans there is no problem. Disgruntled slightly but that’s the end of it.

      I had this same exact issue with a neighbor. He severed my old hydraulic sprinkler line. I confronted him in his face and sent him the bill. I did not want to do this but he invaded my piece of pie. He is a large obese lazy man and I am an old school Marine. He wrote me a check and that was the end of it.

  9. scott s. says:

    So is the problem PSR, or PHMSA rulemaking under 49CFR Part 174, or greedy shareholders with 401K or ETFs managed by evil Vanguard or Blackrock? Seems like everyone with an axe to grind is jumping in with evidence-free opinions.

  10. morongobill says:

    One word is missing from this discussion. Dioxin.

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