CLEVELAND (WJW) – The ripple effect from the East Palestine train derailment continues to be felt around the country.
Cleveland City Council met with local law enforcement and representatives from Senator Sherrod Brown and Representative Shontel Brown’s office to produce a plan to better prevent and react to a train derailment in Cleveland.
“Cleveland is a legacy city and significant rail infrastructure passes through our wards,” Councilmember Jenny Spencer said.
Spencer chaired the meeting, leading the conversation aimed at airing out all the possible concerns and outcomes in order to update the current emergency management plan. However, she said tackling this problem from a legal standpoint is just as important.
“There is a lot of advocacy going on right now at the federal level and at the state level in terms of changing some of the laws and regulations and oversight,” she said. “Cleveland needs and wants to add our voice to that process and make sure that local issues are part of regulatory changes.”
Several members of council voiced strong opinions against Norfolk Southern and it’s recent decisions to reroute trains through Cleveland’s densely populated neighborhoods.
“Cleveland City Council passed a resolution condemning Norfolk Southern Corporation for rerouting daily trains carrying highly toxic, flammable crude oil and ethanol through the city of Cleveland without public notice,” Councilmember Joseph Jones said.
Several presenters at the meeting said the communication with big rail companies has been extremely difficult over the years. This has been just on the matter of managing their tracks and bridges, many of which are crumbling throughout Cleveland.
Councilmember Michael Polensek called on Mayor Justin Bibb’s administration to act swiftly.
“The city has been ineffective of citing the railroads for the conditions of the bridges,” Polensek said. “I want someone to show me the last time we put any of the railroads of housing court.”
Cleveland’s Fire Marshall Captain Dave Talban said he is confident that Cleveland’s current emergency response plan is up to standard and the fire department would be ready to act, but having this discussion was beneficial for everyone involved.
“I think we answered a lot of tough questions today,” he said.
Council also discussed the possibility of using the power of subpoena to summon big rail companies like Norfolk Southern to come to a council meeting to produce a better plan collectively, or to answer some of these hard questions from the public.
Spencer said this may not be the only meeting on this topic.
“This is a very fluid situation. There’s a lot going on at our state level and nationally in terms of our rail industry right now,” Spencer said. “And as conditions change, I think council would be interested in further conversations and further hearings.”