In a February 14 press conference, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine revealed that both he and Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro signed off on the decision to conduct a "controlled release" of chemicals from the derailed Norfolk Southern train in East Palestine, Ohio.
"It was clear at that point that we were faced with two bad options," DeWine said of the hours and days immediately following the incident. DeWine later stated that "we then made the decision to go ahead with the second option which was to control release."
DeWine said that shortly after the derailment, when it became clear that an explosion could occur, he spoke with railroad representatives, bringing Shapiro into the conversation of the next steps and weighing the risks of leaving the train to explode, or setting the chemicals on fire.
"It came back that the concern was that this would be a catastrophic — what was described as a catastrophic explosion of the car, which would result in shrapnel going out up to — close to a mile. We also looked at what the danger was from a controlled release which is what the railroad felt should be done," DeWine stated of the phone call.
"Governor Shapiro and I spent considerable time up to about two hours, I recall, asking a lot of questions about how that would take place," DeWine added.
DeWine stated that "we then made the decision to go ahead with the second option which was to control release as that was being prepared to be done.
In a February 6 press conference, Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro warned residents who live near East Palestine, Ohio that they need to evacuate, indicating that he signed off on the controlled burn of chemicals that were held in the derailed train cars.
"The vinyl chloride contents of five rail cars are currently unstable and could potentially explode, resulting in deadly shrapnel and toxic fumes," Shapiro said. "As Governor DeWine and officials in Ohio just announced, to alleviate the risk of uncontrollable shrapnel Norfolk Southern Railroad is planning a controlled release of the vinyl chloride at approximately 3:30 pm."
"However, the controlled release of the toxic chemicals also has the potential to be deadly following new modeling information conducted this morning and discussed at length between myself, Governor DeWine, and our respective teams," Shapiro added at the time, adding that he "strongly encouraged" an evacuation of the residents.
According to ABC News, following the setting of the fire, Shapiro said that the vent and burn operation went "as planned," and that "no concerning" air and water quality readings have been detected.
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