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CNN Tonight

CNN Town Hall Of East Palestine Toxic Train Disaster. Aired 10- 11p ET

Aired February 22, 2023 - 22:00   ET




JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: You're watching a CNN Live Special Town Hall, Toxic Train Disaster, Ohio residents speak out. In just minutes right here on CNN the CEO of Norfolk Southern will face questions live from East Palestine residence. The people in the Ohio town were one of his trains skidded off the tracks to disastrous results.

Nearly three weeks after this train derailed. Anger is running high. So is fear. Many of the 4700 people who live in this town worried that they're sick because of the crash. And they're worried about the company's failure to contain its toxic fallout.

But before we go to the CEO of Norfolk Southern, let's bring in the Mayor of East Palestine, Trent Conaway, who joins me now. Mr. Mayor, thank you so much for joining me, really appreciate it. We've heard from the state government, we've heard from the federal government, we're going to hear from Norfolk Southern this evening. What more do you need from all three of them that you're not currently getting?

MAYOR TRENT CONAWAY, EAST PALESTINE, OHIO: Right now, I think we're currently getting the most -- everything we need. Except we need some answers for as far as the health concerns. That's our big concern. Our residents' safety is number one. And, you know, we need to get to the bottom of these health concerns. We're being told the water safe. I believe that. Our municipal water safe. We've told our air is safe. You know, I think it's safe. My family's here, they've been here the whole time. But there's definitely concern for residents. And, you know, I have concerns too, because paramount is our citizens safety as well.

TAPPER: So yeah, we've heard some of those health concerns, this evening, concerns there's an individual who had to go to the emergency room because he was bleeding so much, his nose was bleeding so much, worried mom whose son is having nosebleeds. We were hearing about rashes. We're hearing about all sorts of gastrointestinal issues. Have you gotten any sort of satisfying answer as to what is going wrong?

CONAWAY: No, we haven't. The health clinic, I'm hoping that can ease some concerns. I am hearing you know that people are going to the doctor and the doctors aren't quite know what to do. So, you know, the HAS -- HSS needs to step up. And, you know, they need help with get us some answers for our town to ease these fears. There's a lot of fears in town, especially people close to their tracks, there's, you know, there's definitely some fears and you know, they're justified and they need answers. And, you know, we'll get those answers.

TAPPER: And Mayor Conaway, we've also heard concerns about the livelihood of the town, in addition to the individual health and life of individual residents, the ability to function to have businesses to make money, how long do you think it will take your town, East Palestine to bounce back from this? And will it ever bounce back?

CONAWAY: I'm cautiously optimistic that it'll bounce back. But, you know, I don't know, it's going to depend on the cleanup efforts, how that goes. I have Mr. Shaw's word. I have the EPA administrators' word. I have our governor's word that, you know, they're going to make things right. So, you know, we're going to hold them to that. We're going to hold everybody to their word. And I mean, that's the best we can do right now. This is going to be a very long process. And, you know, eventually, you know, hopefully it comes to an end and hopefully, you know, it goes back to the way it was. And actually better than the way it was. That's our main goal. We have to stay together on this, but I -- you know, I hear the resonance. You know, I hear their concerns. And you know, those need to be addressed very soon, so.

TAPPER: Earlier, we heard from one of our cameras in East Palestine, we heard a train going through your town during this very special. Are you comfortable with trains continuing to go through and what changes, if any, do you think need to happen for East Palestine to be safe in the future from anything like this ever happening again?

CONAWAY: I -- you know, that's a federal government question. Yes, it's a little unnerving here, and the trains go through after just what happened. But, you know, I attribute it to the safe as being in a car wreck and you're cautious after a car wreck. But yes, it's a little unnerving, you know, hearing nutrients come through. And maybe I think we need to look at some safety regulations. And, you know, see if there's anything that we can change, maybe slowed down a little bit. We did get some good word that there are going to dig up all the dirt under the tracks. That was a big concern. We heard today that, you know, they are going to start that process very soon. So, you know, like I said, I'm cautiously optimistic that, you know, we could come back as a community.

TAPPER: Mayor Trent Conaway of East Palestine, thank you so much for joining us this evening. We really appreciate your time and our best wishes to you in this difficult job you have.

CONAWAY: Thank you, sir.

TAPPER: Back to Sara Sidner.


SARA SIDNER, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: We are here in East Palestine and we are being joined now by the CEO of Norfolk Southern Alan Shaw. Mr. Shaw, thank you for being here. We have heard several different things. And there's a lot of residents sitting right in front of me that definitely have some things they'd like to ask you and say to you, but first, I want to give you a chance to speak to them. What would you like to tell them after this disaster that, frankly, has these folks afraid for their kids, afraid for their own health and afraid for their economy?

ALAN SHAW, CEO, NORFOLK: Yeah, look, I appreciate you giving me the opportunity to sit down with you today. And I thank the residents of East Palestine who are joining virtually and watching on TV. And I also want to make sure I thank the first responders for rushing to the accident, and what they've done for the community.

I've been listening. I've been listening to you tonight. This is the fourth time I've been here. I've been listening to the community. I'm terribly sorry, for what has happened to your community. I want you to know that Norfolk Southern is here. And we're going to stay here. And we're going to make this right. We're going to get the environmental cleanup right. We're going to support the citizens of this community. We're going to invest in the long-term health of this community. And we're going to help this community thrive. And we're going to make Norfolk Southern a safer railroad. Now, I look forward to the opportunity to hear your questions and hear your concerns.

SIDNER: I'm going to start with the first question. And I apologize, because you talked about being safer. And that's important. So there is a history here. According to Federal Railroad Administration data that we looked up, your company has reported the second highest accident rate nationally among the seven major freight railroads each year since 2019. Why is that?

SHAW: You know, it's -- I've been thinking about this every day, since this has occurred, going over my mind and asking my team, what we could have done differently? You know, it's clear that our safety culture and our investments in safety, didn't work here to prevent this accident. And so we're going to -- we're going to look at the results of the NTSB investigation. We're going to use data. We're going to use science and we're going to figure out what we could have done better. What we know is that over time, accidents are down, hazardous releases are down and personal injuries are down. But there's always more that we can do. And I'm committed to making Norfolk Southern, a safer railroad.

SIDNER: All right, you all have heard his piece. Don Elzer, you're a business owner here. You've lived in East Palestine for a decade or more now, what would you like to ask? You've got the CEO sitting right here in front of you. And we do thank you for coming and facing these folks, because they've been through a lot. Would you like to ask?

DON ELZER, BUSINESS OWNER FROM EAST PALESTINE: We do, thank you for coming. I've got two things. We hear a lot about mistrust. And, at least in my mind, and a lot of the people's minds that I talked to mistrust started because we didn't find out what was in the rail parts for two or three days after the crash. And then we were evacuated. And before we were told we could come back to our house trains were running again. And at least the perception is that we were told come back because they wander on the trains not because we were safe, it's amazing that the trains could start up within minutes after the evacuation was lifted. And I think that caused a lot of mistrust, too.

SHAW: Hi, Don. You know, as I've talked to the citizens here, I've heard that a couple of times. So I understand them at that point. I can tell you that as we progress through this, our focus was on the safety of the community here. You know, we immediately started environmental remediation, we set up our Family Assistance Center. And when the evacuation was order was lifted, we resumed train operations and I'm sorry for kind of the effect that has had on people. I understand that.

ELZER: You can see how it looks so from where the people living here?

SHAW: Oh, yes, sir.

ELZER: We're still not back to our homes and the trains are running through town. And as the Mayor said, it's unnerving to hear a train go through town now. And there's what 50 a day going through. So it's not settling.

And I've got a whole another question is, we have several businesses in town, a couple of them are retail businesses. And I hear a lot about money coming in money coming in and what we can do financially, but there's a perception that we've got to change. We've got customers might come into our places. Now we've got school teams not coming into our school. And I don't know how we address that long-term to change the perception of what's going on here. The stigma of what is now in East Palestine. And I don't know the answer to this, but and I don't know money is the answer. But there has to be some long-term marketing to change the -- what people think of East Palestine?

SHAW: Yeah, you know, I'm unhappy with some of the misinformation out there, right, because that -- that does a disservice to the citizens of East Palestine. And I've talked to the Mayor about that quite a bit.


We're committed to the East Palestine. So we've done a couple of things. We committed a recovery fund, a million dollars. And that's a downpayment. I've talked to the mayor about pulling together some community leaders, where that can best be deployed to invest and the future of East Palestine and help it thrive. I was talking to the Mayor yesterday in the hallway. And Mayor Conaway had mentioned that he had been up into the early hours in the morning, Tuesday morning with some community leaders, about some ideas where Norfolk Southern can support the long-term health of this community. And we're going to sit down sometime next week and, and talk through that.

We're also looking for immediate action where we can help. You know, it's heartbreaking to hear the story of folks canceling tournaments here. And so what I've done is I've hired an employee who is a resident of this community. He was one of our craft union employees. And I asked him to work directly for me. And I said, I'm going to give you a million dollars, and I want you to work with the community, and the citizens of East Palestine and folks like you. I figured out, how to -- how to put that best at work that bridge these issues that you're seeing right now.

SIDNER: Mr. Shaw --

SHAW: I'm sorry.

SIDNER: -- can you -- can you promise money, marketing, whatever this community needs, that Norfolk says an accident has caused harm to this community?

SHAW: Yes. We've so far, we've committed $7 million. And that's a down payment. We're going to continue, and we're going to be here today, we're going to be here tomorrow. We're going to be here a year from now. We're going to be here five years from now, that's my commitment to this community. I want to see this through. And each and every day, I'm going to do the next right thing.

SIDNER: Katie Brockman, you haven't had a chance to speak yet. And I would love for you to be able to ask your question.

KATIE BROCKMAN, LIFELONG RESIDENT OF EAST PALESTINE: Sure. Thank you for being here. So each day that passes, the chemicals are sinking deeper into our land and water, and further poisoning our residents and environment. What is the timeline for cleanup? And can we expect to see a sense of urgency and remediation efforts? Like we saw in opening the tracks?

SHAW: Yes, Katie, thank you for the question. You know, as you heard earlier, there's been hundreds of tests by our independent contractor, by the EPA, by local health authorities, and they don't come back and say the air quality is clean, water quality is clean. We're going to continue to monitor that.

We're setting up ground, an array of groundwater testing in and around the site that continue to test. We're going to continue the monitoring, and we're going to continue with the environmental cleanup. We've exited the emergency phase, as Anne Vogel has stated. We're cooperating with the EPA on a long-term remediation plan. You know, I felt like we had a good plan for the soil under the tracks, an environmentally sound plan based on engineering principles. But as I talk to the community here, and individual meetings, you guys made it really clear that you didn't feel comfortable with that plan. And I listened. And I'm hearing your concerns. And so I told my team last night, I said, to come up with another plan, rip up those tracks and dig up that soil. And they gave me a plan this morning. And so I called the Governor and I called Mayor Conaway and I called Anne Vogel and said we're going to rip up this tracks and dig up this -- that soil. We're going to do what's right for this community.

SIDNER: Cathy, I know that you have a question. And please share with us. I know that we are all, you know, having this opportunity is very rare to be able to sit down and see somebody face to face with something like this has happened. What's your question? CATHY REESE, REGISTERED NURSE IN TOWN NEAR EAST PALESTINE: Well, I live in Negley, and my property waters mostly run. And I have well water. So my question is, I called over two weeks ago for them to come and check my well water and I'd like the ground tested as well, as well as the creek groundwater. And nothing yet, when and how often are they going to be checking once they do start and this is going to go on for a couple years. I mean?

SHAW: We're going to continue to test however long it takes. And I'm sorry for your specific issue. If you don't mind, I'd like to connect with you afterwards and get your name and number and we'll get that resolved.

REESE: OK, thank you.

SIDNER: All right. We'll make that happen right after the show. I'm going to go ahead and thank you both for your questions. We'll have more. I'm going to go ahead and toss it back to Jake.

TAPPER: That's right, Sarah. We're going to have more questions with my team here from East Palestine asking questions of the CEO of Norfolk Southern when our special Town Hall continues right after this quick break.



TAPPER: And we're back with more questions from concerned residents of East Palestine and the surrounding area for the CEO of the company at the center of the train disaster, Alan Shaw, of Norfolk Southern is still with us. And Mr. Shaw, I want to start with a comment if we have the clip ready, I asked the administrator of the EPA, Michael Regan, if he had a question for you, and this is what he had to say.


MICHAEL REGAN, EPA ADMINISTRATOR: I don't have any questions for the CEO of Norfolk Southern, I have some orders for the company. And the orders are that the company will comply with our order, which compels them to take full responsibility, full accountability for the trauma they've inflicted on this community and the damage that they've caused.


TAPPER: Are you going to follow that order, sir?

SHAW: Jake, yes. Administrator Regan and I are aligned on this. We have a responsibility, and I've made the commitment that we're going to get the environmental cleanup right. We're going to support the citizens of East Palestine. We're going to invest in the long-term health of East Palestine, to help East Palestine thrive. And we're going to make Norfolk Southern a safer railroad. So absolutely.

[22:20:14] TAPPER: You heard some skeptical questions earlier from a gentleman there with you who noted that he felt that people were told that it was clear to go back to their homes just so the trains could be running again. And you said earlier, that it was a downpayment $7 million in Norfolk Southern is going to give to make sure that the citizens, the impacted residents of East Palestine will be OK, $7 million. At the same time, we should note, Norfolk Southern plans to spend $7.5 billion in stock buybacks to benefit your shareholders. Your company has also spent tens of billions of dollars in the last two decades, lobbying Congress and various administrations to loosen regulations so that you can -- and increase your profits while decreasing the safety for individuals like those in the room you're with. So how can you respond to those credibly who say, you value the bottom line, your profits more than you value the lives of the citizens whose communities your trains drive through?

SHAW: We're absolutely focused on safety. We invest over a billion dollars a year in safety, through the form of maintenance through equipment, through technology. You know, clearly, this is a situation where our safety culture and our investments didn't prevent this accident. Every day, I've asked myself, what could we have done differently? I'm very much looking forward to the results of the NTSB investigation. We are cooperating fully with the NTSB and the FRA to find out the root cause of this accident. And we're going to take action, we're going to learn from this and we're going to invest. We're going to make Norfolk Southern a safer railroad. There's always more we can do. And I'm looking forward to hearing those results. And we're going to have an opportunity to sit down with our regulators and our elected officials all the key stakeholders and design ways to make Norfolk Southern and the industry safer.

TAPPER: Republican Senator of Ohio, J.D. Vance raised the issue that your 150 car train only had two employees and a trainee on it. Is that true? And how is that responsible? How is that putting safety first?

SHAW: Jake, this investigation is being run by the NTSB and I'm prohibited from talking specifically about anything that caused this derailment. I'm very much looking forward to the preliminary results, which should be coming out very soon.

TAPPER: I want to bring in some of the East Palestine citizens I have here with me. Andris Baltputnis who's a former chemistry teacher. This week, the governor and the EPA Administrator visited his house and drink tap water from his kitchen sink. Andris before you ask Mr. Shaw question, did that reassure you at all them drinking the water from your sink?


TAPPER: It did. OK. Well, that's good news. You have a question for Mr. Shaw?

BALTPUTNIS: Yes, I'd like to go back to that safety subject that you mentioned just a moment ago. In Ohio, we have rigorous inspection of highways, rigorous inspection of bridges, rigorous inspections of public buildings. Are there laws or legislation that regulate rail line inspections and the equipment that goes with it?

SHAW: Andris, yes, that's -- that's a great question. There's -- there's a lot of regulation around rail safety. We comply with that. And I'm looking for the opportunity to institute more rules, learn from this and see what we could have done better. We will continue to invest in safety.

BALTPUTNIS: Thank you.

TAPPER: Jenna Giannios is also here and has a question for you.

JENNA GIANNIOS, FOUNDER, UNITED FOR EAST PALESTINE: Hi, I have a two- part question. So the first part of my question is, if you could walk us through that decision of not digging up the soil and just rebuilding the train tracks over it?

And second, it's been roughly three weeks. What new safety measures do you have in place since then, regardless of the investigation that's going on? Clearly, there are some things that need to change. And if you haven't come up with them yet, when can we expect to hear from them because this isn't the first, this won't be the last. People need to see change in a big way. And -- yeah, those are my questions.


SHAW: Yes, Ma'am. We believe that we had an environmentally sound remediation plan for the soil under the tracks. However, as I noted as I can continue to engage with members of East Palestine, and one on one meetings, a small group meetings --


GIANNIOS: Can I interrupt you? What made you believe that that was an OK resolution? That's what I'm looking for. Like, what goes into that decision?

SHAW: Yes, our independent environmental experts. So as we have -- as I have engage --


JESSICA CONARD, LIFELONG RESIDENT OF EAST PALESTINE: -- how many gallons of -- when you dump 100,000 gallons of chemicals, and an oil --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- we're not talking about the oil.

CONARD: -- 60,000 gallons of oil when you dump that into the ground, and you don't take that out of the ground before you put your tracks on and you run your train on it, that's an OK decision? The oil --

SHAW: Ma'am --

CONARD: The oil is going to cause us the long-term effects the -- everybody's talking about the chemicals. And while I do think that's important. It's the oil that seeping into our ground that you chose not to dig up and just put your tracks right over top of it. She's asking you specifically, what led you to that decision?

SHAW: Ma'am, we've made a lot of progress on environmental remediation. We've dug up 4600 cubic yards of soil and collected 1.7 million gallons of water. We will continue with environmental remediation. And in early March, we will start by tearing up the tracks and digging up the soil underneath the tracks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Six weeks, oil is going to be soaking into our soil.

CONARD: So until then we'll just had it keep going down and

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- keep going in our soils.

TAPPER: Jenna, did you get all your questions answered?

GIANNIOS: No, I did specifically ask what changes you've already made. And I think these residents also are very valid and asking like why the delay? Why can't we do it tomorrow?

SHAW: Yeah, Janice, thank you for that. I didn't get that.

TAPPER: It's Jenna. It's Jenna.

SHAW: Yeah. We're going to -- Oh, my apologies. We're going to we're going to test and we're going to calibrate all of our -- the wayside detectors all across our system. That's something that we stood up and the immediate aftermath of this.

GIANNIOS: And is that something that's visible for people to see? Is it publicly available for us to see that that's being done?

SHAW: It's an internal component to Norfolk Southern.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't you think people would want to see that happening? Wouldn't that -- wouldn't that show that you're trying to do something different if you're actively showing people this?

SHAW: We could certainly take videos of that and post it.


SHAW: -- website. What we have done based on feedback that we've gotten from the citizens is we stood up a website and it's And we're providing updates every day on the environmental remediation. We're providing updates every day on the financial assistance for the community.

TAPPER: And Mr. Shaw, one of the questions that Jenna asked that you didn't answer had to do with the fact that obviously, whatever Norfolk Southern was doing, almost three weeks ago, wasn't sufficient in terms of safety. And she's -- her question was basically you don't need to wait for the federal government or governor DeWine to tell you to improve things. For example, if it's true as got as a Senator J.D. Vance notes, having two staffers and a trainee on a 150-car train would not seem sufficient in the view of Republican Governor Vance. So her question is -- Senator Vance. Her question is, what are you asking your team to do now to change it before the government makes you change it? Because you are in charge of the company. You can make those changes. And yes, if you spend a billion dollars on safety, that's great. Of course, your profits are in the multibillion dollars every year.

SHAW: Yeah, we're also advancing technology on our locomotives to check the -- inspect the tracks as our trains run over the tracks. We're looking for the results from the NTSB investigation to find the root cause of this which is one of the reasons that we're cooperating fully with the NTSB and the FRA. We'll learn for this.


What we had in place didn't work here. We're going to figure this out and we're going to make the investments to make Norfolk Southern safer.

TAPPER: I want to bring in Jim Stewart who has a question for you. Sir?

JIM STEWART, LIFELONG EAST PALESTINE RESIDENT: Yeah. A lot of this that I have to ask has been answered already. But I'm speaking on the aspect that we, the people of East Palestine are just being treated like dummies. We're not dummies. We're smart people. Listen to these people and what they have found out about different things, and everything else.

I'm angry. I'm angry about this. I lived in East Palestine for 65 years now. That's my home. My grandmother came from Germany. She lived in Palestine. My dad grew up there. My family is growing up there now. It is disgusting that we just lost it. I live in a house that's probably the closest of any of these, and it's a shame. And it's probably next to the closest one.

And our house has, you know, it's been inspected, it's been this, it's been that. I'm afraid to put my dog out just to pee. I mean, he's only this tall. So, you know, I don't feel safe in this town now. You took it away from me. You took this away from us. You seem like a sincere man; I'm not calling you names. I'm not, you know, but your company stinks because they are not watching what's going on.

Workers don't pay attention nowadays. Supervisors make workers work. You've got to do something about this. I lost a lot. I lost the value of my home. I'm only one block. I can throw a stone through that (inaudible). And what do we do now? I come back from Chicago for four days -- Chicago for four days. I came home the other day. I put the garage door up, I got -- we pulled in the garage, got out of the car, put the garage door down.

As soon as we got out of that car the smell came back to us. Right away, instant headache. I'm 65 years old, a diabetic, (inaudible) hearts, heart disease. Everything. Now, did you shorten my life now? I want to retire and enjoy it. How are we going to enjoy it? You burned me. We were going to sell our house. Our value went poof. Do I mow the grass? Do I -- can I plant tomatoes next summer? What can I do? I'm afraid to.

You know, and it's in the air. Every day I cough (inaudible) a little cough here, a little cough there. I've never had that, you know. I got rashes on my cheeks, and all of my arms from the derailment. I don't call it a derailment; I call it a disaster. It's Norfolk's disaster not a train derailment.

I'm an artist. I shoot from the hip, just like the governor just told you. I tell you the truth. You seem like a family man a great guy and all, but you know what, like I said, your company has to do something.

TAPPER: How are going to make it up to him, Mr. Shaw? How are you going to make it up to Jim Stewart and all the other families?

SHAW: Jim, thank you for his comments. I hear you. I'm terribly sorry that this has happened to this community. But what I can do, and what I will do, is make it right. We're going to get the cleanup right. We're going to reimburse the citizens. We're going to invest in the long-term health of this community. I'm going to see this through. And we are going to be here.

And we are going to work with these community leaders to help it thrive. I think you heard the mayor talk about, you know, making this community even better. And that's what I'm picking up as I'm talking to community leaders and citizens, you know. We are looking for ideas from the community and where we can help and things that we can do. That's why we have somebody --

GIANNIOS: Well, would you be willing to buy their houses? Will you buy them out of their houses at the property values so they can -- so Jim can retire? Is that -- that's making it right. Step up.

SHAW: We're -- we're going -- I'm sorry. I'm not interrupting.

J. STEWART: No, go ahead.

GIANNIOS: You're good.

TAPPER: Jim wants to hear your answer.

SHAW: We're going to do what's right for this community.

GIANNIOS: Well, that's the (inaudible).

J. STEWART: Your derailment, did it change me now? It's changed -- it's made me an angry man. I'm a Christian, I love the Lord, but you have made me angry. I don't want to be like that. I want you to respect me like I respect you right now and you're saying, what, I lost everything now. I worked hard. I'm still working, on my 44th year at my job. I want to get out. Now I'm just stuck.


JESSICA CONARD, LIFELONG RESIDENT OF EAST PALESTINE: Mr. Shaw, is it normal for trains to catch fire, for the wheels to catch fire? Is that something that normally happens? BEN RATNER, CAFE OWNER LIVING IN EAST PALESTINE: And not get caught for 20 miles?

CONARD: No, no. Hold on. Is that a normal occurrence or a common occurrence would you say?


CONARD: So, when the 9-1-1 call -- when the first 9-1-1 call came in in Sebring, Ohio, which is about 15 minutes from East Palestine, when that first 9-1-1 call came in, and more kept coming in, was your railroad alerted that your train was on fire? Did you then respond by letting the communities that you're just going to run your fiery train through? Did you call Salem or Columbian or East Palestine to let us know to get away from our tracks?

Because I didn't hear our sirens sounding. My sister was right next to the tracks with her fiance. She could've been killed; this could've devastated our home. And it could've been prevented and we could've been warned. And thank God that there were no casualties, no loss of life, no loss of buildings. But if this is not a normal occurrence for trains to be on fire, why did that happen? And why did it continue for another 40 miles?

TAPPER: So just so people at home understand about what she's talking about, sparks from an apparent wheel bearing overheat were seen at least 43 minutes and 21 miles before the train derailed. And a CNN analysis found that the train then slowed dramatically around the time that that overheating was first seen.

So, why did the train slowed down so far ahead of the derailment? And why, as you're being asked by a resident of East Palestine, were steps not taken to warn counties where this train were sparks were flying were headed?

J. STEWART: I had just heard that the train broke down (inaudible) and there was noise.


I don't know if that's true enough. The train -- that train actually break down and took off and there were noise a couple of times --

TAPPER: Let's have him answer the question, the first question.

SHAW: So, we are fully cooperating with the National Transportation Safety Board and with the FRA on this. Until then, I am prohibited from making any statements about the accident. What I am doing --

RATNER: You don't think we need answers?

SHAW: -- is focus --

RATNER: You don't think we need answers?

SHAW: Sir, we do need answers. I need answers. RATNER: So then why was it on fire for so long? There is video

footage of it on fire 20 miles away, people that lived almost an hour away called 9-1-1. Why did it continue on the tracks, as far as it did? We deserve to know. Investigation (inaudible).

SHAW: Sir.

CONARD: And we deserve to be warned.

TAPPER: So, we're going to let Mr. Shaw have the last word here. We know it's not easy taking these tough questions from people who are understandably righteously angry. But Mr. Shaw, we will let you have the last word.

SHAW: I understand the anger. I've experienced it as I've talked to the citizens of this community over the last two and a half weeks. It's important to me that I hear directly from the citizens of East Palestine and what I can do and what Norfolk Southern can do to help the recovery of this community.

I'm prohibited from talking about the ongoing investigation. What I can do and what I am doing and the commitment that I'm making, is we're going to get the environmental cleanup right. We're going to support the citizens and the family members here, and we're going to invest in the long-term growth of this community and help East Palestine thrive.

TAPPER: Thanks for taking their questions, Mr. Shaw. We appreciate it. Coming up, how are these residents feeling after speaking their truths to people in power? You'll hear from them, after the break.



TAPPER: Welcome back to our live CNN townhall. I'm Jake Tapper in New York here with some residents from East Palestine. More from them in a moment, but now back to Ohio and CNN's Sara Sidner. Sara?

SARA SIDNER, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. We are here in East Palestine and we do have several folks who have stuck with us through this hour. Thank you so much for sticking with us, and for asking your really honest and tough questions that need to be asked. I'm going to start with you, Courtney. You heard from the CEO. He apologized to your faces. He said he was going to do the right thing. Do you believe that?

COURTNEY NEWMAN, MOTHER & TEACHER IN EAST PALESTINE: I hope I can believe him. Honestly, it's hard to trust anybody right now for everything that we've been through. I know just in a school district, what's going to be done for our school? Our school has been through so much. We have teams not coming here wanting to play us.

We have students, parents taking students out of our school putting them in other districts. Who's going to help our school district, you know? We put in a lot of hard work and we take pride in our school, in our students and try to make them feel safe. And if we don't feel safe, how are they going to feel safe? Who's going to protect our school district? Who's going to help us?

SIDNER: And you have a son that's been suffering from the (inaudible).

NEWMAN: I do. I do have a son. He's in middle school and he's had a bloody nose -- he had one this morning. It's frustrating.

SIDNER: I imagine, and scary, and for you and for --


NEWMAN: It is. It's overwhelming. And you know, we've dealt through COVID, and now this. And a lot of -- a lot of people deal with anxiety. I'm one of them. My son is. As soon as we pulled in from the hotel at home, he started throwing up. He started having a panic attack. And I know there's other students and staff who deal with that and other people. You know, it's a lot. It's very overwhelming.

SIDNER: Anxiety is a real thing.

NEWMAN: It is.

SIDNER: It does have physical effects. Josh, let me ask you what you saw and what you heard, not only from the CEO, but from the governor, and from the EPA, all who are promising to do the right thing, to do the tests, to help the community, to try to create a better economic situation. Did you buy it?

JOSH HICKMAN, LONGTIME EAST PALESTINE RESIDENT: Well, I think their presence is going to be here. Do I buy what they're selling? Not necessarily. You know, basically, we're doing -- their promising things over the long term, and that's just an obvious -- you know, those things need to be done.

So, they are just saying what is obviously being need to be said. But what are you going to do right now, immediately, not six years from now, four years from now, three years from now? What are you going to do tomorrow? And what are you going to do next week? What are you going to do next month?

You know, the people here are suffering. And essentially, they're not doing enough. And what are you going to do immediately, not next week -- I mean, next week, next month, but not next year, what are going to do right now? Are you going to offer to the people -- the renters and homeowners that want to relocate? Why make them wait years and years and years for this? If they want that, and they're going to do what's right, why not do it tomorrow?

SIDNER: You all feel that way that you want to see some results right now?

NEWMAN: I feel like it's almost been almost three weeks.

UNKNOWN: Yeah. DON ELZER, BUSINESS OWNER FROM EAST PALESTINE: I think we need -- we need things done today, and we need things done for the next ten years.


ELZER: It can't stop. I mean, this is a major disaster.

SIDNER: Well, you heard the CEO and you heard the other officials that they're going to do what's right for as long as it takes. Now, we have to watch and wait and see if that comes true.

UNKNOWN: And whether or not --

UNKNOWN: I believe it when I see it.

GRANT MACKAY, ATTORNEY REPRESENTING RESIDENTS IN EAST PALESTINE: And Sarah, if I may, I have an issue with the governor as well as Director Vogel.

SIDNER: Understood.

MACKAY: They sit -- they sit around and they say --


MACKAY: -- talk about the water, they didn't say anything was safe.


MACKAY: They forced people back into this evacuation zone, that couldn't afford to be there. And due to that, these individuals come out with these questionable toxic reactions. Yet, the state of Ohio has a ton of money, they could've put up temporary shelters and house these people, and tested the water, tested the land -- the ground before they went back in. That failed to happen.

SIDNER: That is fair enough. We're running out of time. I thank you all for sitting here with us and going through this. I know it's emotionally difficult and you are all tired after going to do this for so long. So, I appreciate your time. Jake?

TAPPER: We are running out of time. So, I have to ask that you keep it to a sentence or two how you feel. You got a chance to confront the governor and his administration, the EPA administrator. You talked -- you heard us talk to the mayor and then you've got to ask some very tough questions of the CEO of Norfolk Southern. Are you -- do you feel any better today or do you feel -- right now or do you feel worse?

GIANNIOS: I think a lot of questions weren't answered. The CEO of Norfolk Southern, be a leader, make change. Do it today, don't wait.

RATNER: Potentially -- I'll use politician speech -- speak, we heard a lot of -- a lot of muddled words tonight. Still, I'm hearing, especially from the governor, might be, will be, hopefully, we'll see. That kind of stuff doesn't bring true for safety for us. It doesn't -- it doesn't bode well for confidence.

TAPPER: Let me go to the Stewarts. How do you feel?

J. STEWART: I got a lot of my chest. I hope I spoke for the people of East Palestine. I love East Palestine and been here all my life. And I hope we grow on and be strong, like we always are. But I can't say that like it's -- everything is going to happen like it is. I just don't feel like -- they're going to walk away or do something. Something's going to happen.

TAPPER: You still feel worried about your future?

J. STEWART: Yes I. I worry about the future of East Palestine because it should -- it shouldn't be like this, and that soil in that dirt and that oil out there on the draft (ph).

NENE STEWART, LIFELONG EAST PALESTINE RESIDENT: I don't believe what they're saying.

TAPPER: You don't believe them.

N. STEWART: I don't. I don't. I don't. it's not --

J. STEWART: That's at stake --

N. STEWART: I'll believe it maybe if they're doing it tomorrow, fix it tomorrow. I mean, clean it tomorrow. We're all sick now. I mean, you know, they better hurry up because everybody is sick.

TAPPER: Andris, your former chemistry teacher, you must have questions to that haven't been answered?


ANDRIS BALPUTNIS, FORMER CHEMISTRY TEACHER: Yeah, but overall, I'm so impressed with my fellow panelists here. I thought they a did fantastic job. I was very encouraged everything was -- in the positive direction. I think good things are on the horizon.

TAPPER: Oh, you are optimist. Good for you. What about you, DJ, what do you think?

DJ YOKLEY, FOUNDER AND CEO, YOUR SPORTS NETWORK: And so, you know, hearing everybody and everybody's pointing to the accountable party. As a leader in the community, as watching leaders across our state and federal, I feel confident to bet on ourselves and I think that's I took today, is we have the one opportunity in our life to rewrite the greatest comeback story in American history, and we have a pen. So, if we're betting on us, I'm happy that if the East Palestine residence that did (ph).

TAPPER: Yeah. Jessica?

CONARD: There's a lot of big promises that were made today. And I think, you know, DJ has it right. This isn't just a problem for East Palestine. If you have a train near you or a waterway near you, this is a problem for you too. So, stand up, stand with us and we're going to fight until the promises are kept.

TAPPER: Let me just say, on behalf of CNN, the story doesn't and for us either tonight either. So, we're going to stay in touch with you and we're going to keep covering the story and keep holding them accountable and allowing you, more importantly, to hold them accountable. Thank you so much for being here.

UNKNOWN: Thank you for having us. Thank you for having us.

TAPPER: You honor us -- you honor us for being here -- for being here tonight. Thank you to our panelists in Ohio as well and thanks to the officials who came to answer some questions, some of them pretty tough.

CNN Tonight with Alisyn Camerota starts after this quick break.




ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: Good evening, everyone. I'm Alisyn Camerota and this is "CNN Tonight."

We're going to continue the conversation from CNN's Town Hall on the toxic train disaster in East Palestine, Ohio. We just heard from key players trying to deal with the aftermath of this dangerous spill, including Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, and Michael Regan, the head of the federal EPA.

We also heard from residents of East Palestine who are still experiencing vomiting, bloody noses and other health issues. Many are still afraid to go back to their homes. The NTSB will release its preliminary report on the derailment tomorrow. And the EPA chief is turning up the pressure on Norfolk Southern, telling the railroad, that it will be fully responsible for cleaning up the toxic mess and footing the bill for the disaster. Norfolk Southern's chief executive was confronted by an angry resident.


J. STEWART: I'm angry. I'm angry about this. I lived in East Palestine for 65 years now. That's my home. My grandmother came from Germany. She lived in Palestine. My dad grew up there. My family has grown up there now. And it is disgusting that were just lost it.

I live in a house, it's probably closest of any of these, and it's a shame. This is probably the next closest one. And our houses, you know, it's been inspected, it's been this, it's been that. I'm afraid to put my dog out just to pee. I mean, he's only this tall. So, you know, I don't feel safe in this town no. You took it away for me.


CAMEROTA: I want to bring in CNN's chief climate correspondent, Bill Weir, CNN contributor Cari Champion, political commentator, Mondaire Jones, former Democratic congressman, and political commentator Alyssa Farah Griffin, the former Trump White House communications director. Great to have all of you here.

Wow, what a heart wrenching statement from Jim Stewart, is his name, and could he have phrased it any better? I mean, this is his home.


CAMEROTA: He doesn't feel safe anymore. It's been his home for, I think, he was staying generations.


CAMEROTA: And now, I mean, you heard in the town hall, people don't know whether they can drink their water, they don't know whether they can breathe the air around them. What are they to do?

CARI CHAMPION, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think you have done -- first off, CNN, kudos for this town hall. That's the first thing I want to say. I feel as if there is been such an apathy towards what's happening here in Ohio, and we simply are too caught up, whether it be on our phones, TikTok, our own personal lives, this is a natural disaster that is affected so many people --


CHAMPION: Unnatural disaster.

WEIR: Man-made.

CHAMPION: That has not helped -- well, it's more natural because people do it, you know what I mean? Like they're ignoring what is happening. They knew what's going to go on. They knew this would happen. And I think they -- the risk versus reward has been huge.

And now, we look and see these people who are simply devastated, and we have to put a name to the faces. Now, when we see someone like Jim, I think you said his name was, we think, okay, this really does matter. These are lives. I'm sorry, I don't know about you, but if I go on TikTok, I don't want to look at rainbow water. I don't to see animals dying. As you have pointed out, unnatural disaster, ignored perhaps prevented, when we have sat here for so long and ignored this. What are we, a month in? Almost?


CHAMPION: Close to.

CAMEROTA: Yeah. Bill? I mean, you are steeped in these issues, what did you hear tonight?

WEIR: It's the oldest story there is, the big polluter and the little folks, you know --

CAMEROTA: The little folks. WEIR: -- the folks who just want their dogs to go pee safely. I think the CEO did his self a service by finally showing up. What you see is that what starts as a man-made disaster only gets worse when there's no transparency.

What's interesting, that didn't come out today, is to date, so far, the only testing we have online is from the Ohio EPA and it four groundwater reports. For whatever reason, the federal EPA is not coming forward with the testing.


I'm talking to so many scientists who just look at the four reports that are out, and say, there's testing flaws here, there's elevations here that are only going to end up either in the groundwater or downstream.