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CNN Tonight

Norfolk Southern Apologizes To Residents Of East Palestine, Ohio. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired February 22, 2023 - 23:00   ET



BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT: There are elevations here that are only going to end up either in the groundwater or downstream.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: So, the EPA is not -- the federal EPA is not doing any water and air testing or are they?

WEIR: They are, but they're not putting the results out. They don't -- they're not being specific about what exactly they're testing for. So, the experts say, we don't know if their equipment is calibrated to enough sensitivity to pick up these complex compounds that happen when these chemicals are burned together, and it creates stuff that we don't even truly know what it is.

And so, if you look at the state EPA's water reports, they're testing for DDT, which is a pesticide that wasn't on the train. And so, what the experts say, that just tells me they're just doing your basic, this is your sort of generic checklist disaster, these are the chemicals most common, let's check them off the list, when it's way more complicated than that.

CAMEROTA: Mondaire, what did you hear?

MONDAIRE JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I heard heart-wrenching pain from actual people, to your point Carey, who, you know, have been going through something that they never imagined. Right?

UNKNOWN: Uh-hmm.

JONES: And then the trauma of not knowing whether your water is actually safe to drink. Not knowing whether air is actually safe to breathe, despite what the government, whether at the state level or the federal level, is telling you because you see all these animals die.

CAMEROTA: And not only that. I heard other symptoms tonight. I heard them describe -- they're still vomiting. Some of the people in town are still vomiting. And a lot of them are getting bloody noses. I hadn't heard that symptom --


CAMEROTA: And they're going to the hospital because there's such strong bloody noses. I didn't know that that was still happening until tonight.

JONES: I will just say -- look, I think it would have been yet another scandal for the CEO not to have shown up to something that CNN was putting together. Kudos to the network. But I don't know that he acquitted himself well.

I mean, what we heard from the residents of East Palestine is that they still got a lot of unanswered questions or they didn't find his responses to be credible. It seems like (INAUDIBLE), and you can talk more about this as a former White House comms director.

You got to be talking about what you're doing to get ahead of -- you know, however long, I guess we will find out tomorrow what the NTSB investigation will say. But they should be announcing multiple steps that they will undertake even before this report is published tomorrow.

CAMEROTA: Hold your thought because you are the expert here in communication. So, let me play for you and for our viewers what the CEO said tonight to some of the angry residents.


ALAN SHAW, CEO, NORFOLK SOUTHERN: I'm terribly sorry for what has happened to you community. I want you to know that Norfolk Southern is here. And we are going to stay here. 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. We're going to help this community thrive.


CAMEROTA: Alyssa, what could he or should he have said differently?

GRIFFIN: The only thing I give him credit for is showing up. Otherwise (INAUDIBLE) malpractice (INAUDIBLE) in this state with a lack of any concrete things that he is offering. The only thing he referred to is the $7.5 billion for victims' fund.

JONES: Million.

GRIFFIN: Million, I'm sorry. Billion --


GRIFFIN: But the fact that he -- you're hearing everything from businesses that are not able to stay open or the struggling to stay open, bloody noses, horrifying things where people have to live outside of their houses, and there wasn't a plan in place.

I prep CEOs before I work with major corporations. That would be the first thing. Let's come up with the solutions and then put him out there to explain it. So, the lack of answers, I think, was very concerning. I give tremendous credit to the people of East Palestine who participated tonight for pushing back on him because it really was vague and kind of down the road.

But what's important about this and what CNN did tonight is these things can become very much a regional story. However, these do not get solved in a regional way. I (INAUDIBLE). I'm sure (INAUDIBLE) congressional office where you have waste sites (ph). It can go on for years if there's not a major figure advocating for you. So, hopefully, this keeps it front and center.


WEIR: And hopefully, we can have (INAUDIBLE). But to make this -- it truly is a national story because if you live near any waterway and a railroad crossing -- there are 25 million Americans there within a half mile than oil train line, and that's the evacuation zone for an explosion.

So, yes, this awareness and this attention on this and the CEO could lead the way into a -- into a new future. Technology is there. The only thing stopping him from doing it. And the reason that is an easy slip is because they have $7.5 billion in cash right now that they're using to buy back stock.



WEIR: You know, and that could go tomorrow to something else. And so, you know --

CARI CHAMPION, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: To your point, they needed to say, this is what we're doing.

WEIR: Yeah.

CHAMPION: And I like what one resident said, we need to know now, I don't want to hear about what is happening internally, can I have a plan, tell me what you're doing. She was very clear about the fact that her sister and her brother-in-law were right there. They could've died. She said the way in which this could've affected my family, you guys don't even take that into consideration. We matter. We are humans.

And that's the big issue here, the humanity of it all. We're forgetting that part.

CAMEROTA: Let's listen to another one of the residents speaking directly to the CEO.



JESSICA CONARD, LIFELONG RESIDENT OF EAST PALESTINE: 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.

SHAW: Just so --

CONARD: 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.

SHAW: I understand the anger. I've experienced it as I talk 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, you know, what I can do and what more 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.


CAMEROTA: Bill, one of the things that I think she's referring to is that there is video of the train having -- something having been wrong with the train miles before --

WEIR: Miles away, it was sparking.

CAMEROTA: It was sparking --

WEIR: That's on security cam.

CAMEROTA: -- before it derailed. So, I don't know if they didn't know about that, but they should have known about that.

WEIR: What do you think happened? This train is almost two miles long, 150 cars, with two employees on it and a trainee. And so -- and with a breaking system that starts from the front to the back. So, it can take minutes before the back (INAUDIBLE) to stop that the front has already stopped. And so, yeah, it's kind of hard.

He's a relatively new CEO. He has been there a couple years. He has been working for Norfolk Southern since the 90s at all different positions. He was there in 2005 when one of their trains derailed in South Carolina and killed nine people, and put almost the entire village into the hospital for a while.

So, there are plenty of lessons to learn. It is just a matter of implementing them without regulators forcing you to.

CAMEROTA: Panel, stick around. I want to get right now to our guest, Brian Delucia. He is the international rail division representative for the Transport Workers Union of America. Brian, thank you so much for joining us tonight.

So, we were just talking about how there were only three workers on this incredibly long train. You represent the workers who do maintenance and who review the train for security. Tell us what you heard tonight at this town hall.

BRIAN DELUCIA, INTERNATIONAL RAIL DIVISION REPRESENTATIVE, TRANSPORT WORKERES OF AMERICA: Thank you for having me on. And I do want to start by our expressions of sympathy on behalf of the Transport Workers Union to these residents of East Palestine. And to quote Mr. Stewart (ph) from earlier, this is not just a derailment, this is a disaster.


DELUCIA: Our members in Norfolk Southern, employees, are the car inspectors. Normally, we would inspect the brake systems, safety apparatuses, make sure the hazardous cars are marked properly and everything else.

What a lot of the class ones have done over the years, back in 2017, was do a business model that's called precision scheduled railroading. The only thing that accomplished was furloughing and cutting many employees in the maintenance and in the operations department.

It deferred maintenance on a lot of equipment. It caught employees so bad that the remaining employees were forced into overtime and other shifts. That has accomplished nothing but fatigue. The only thing that PSR model accomplished was increased revenue to these railroads at a giant cost.

CAMEROTA: Yeah. We have -- I want to put up this graphic, Norfolk Southern by the numbers. In 2022, $4.8 billion, they made in profit from the railway. Operations, you know, went up. And they -- however, in terms of what they had spent, in terms of -- we have it since 2018 -- on tracks and equipment, $8.9 billion. In other words, they're making a lot of profit, yet, as you say, they're cutting employees, they're not investing in the infrastructure, obviously, as much as they should.

Here's the CEO talking about that discrepancy.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: 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 actually focused on safety. We invest over a billion dollars a year in safety through the form of maintenance, through equipment, through technology. Clearly, this is a situation where our safety culture and our investments didn't prevent this accident.

Every day, I've asked myself, what we have done differently? I'm very much looking forward to the results of the NTSB investigation. We're going to take an 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. I'm looking forward to hearing those results. We're going to sit -- 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.


CAMEROTA: Mr. Delucia, what's your response?

DELUCIA: So, I got to challenge Mr. Shaw here. We still have many employees that are furloughed. They need to increase inspection at every single yard that these trains go through. These trains are required under a foray to have class one break tests done every 24 hours. Many of these yards, we do not have car inspectors in.

So, they allow, in this case, whatever yard that came from, it could've been that three-man crew that had an engineer, a conductor and a trainee performed that class one break test that yes, they say they're qualified, but in essence, they're worried about running that train.

Are they actually doing what a car inspector takes three years to be trained on? I highly doubt it. I'm not going to throw that shade of doubt. If he really wants to put his money where his mouth is, he has to increase these inspections. It's vital here.

CAMEROTA: And increasing inspections would cut down on derailments?

DELUCIA: I think it would be a safeguard to help against future ones. We can't -- they're not going to see every single thing, but in this case, the wayside detectors, something failed here. There was -- I don't know every aspect of this accident and what happened there, as the investigation is not done yet, but here, you know, that train ran for another 21 miles. Something is wrong here.

CAMEROTA: Brian Delucia, international rail division representative for Transport Workers Union of America, thank you very much for your time tonight.

DELUCIA: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: We've got a lot more ahead. Residents of East Palestine telling those in charge, what they have been experiencing since this toxic train derailment. All that, ahead.


CONARD: Your oil --

SHAW: Ma'am --

CONARD: The oil is going to cause the long-term effects. Everybody is talking about the chemicals. And while I do think that's important, it's the oil that's seeping into our ground that you chose not to dig up --





CAMEROTA: Residents of East Palestine getting a chance tonight during CNN's town hall to tell their governor and Norfolk Southern CEO what they are living through. They say they're afraid to go home and they're still getting sick.


COURTNEY NEWMAN, MOTHER AND TEACHER IN EAST PALESTINE: Since we've come home, my son has had bloody noses every day. I took him to the pediatrician on Friday. I was told they had no guidance from the CDC, the health department, there is nothing they could do. I asked if they can do blood work, and they said no.


NEWMAN: They said no. So, I -- they -- he said, I don't know what to tell you. We are in the dark days as much as you are.

JOSH HICKMAN, LONGTIME EAST PALESTINE RESIDENT: Since the night of the derailment, I've had the symptoms of sore throat, irritated nose, headaches. I've been busy. I've also -- what sparked me to even go to the ER was just an exacerbation of those same symptoms. And, you know, the bloody nose, when I blew my nose, the amount of blood that came out was alarming. So, I sought treatment at the ER yesterday.

BEN RATNER, CAFE OWNER LIVING IN EAST PALESTINE: The three of us, even the people from the media that were there, eyes were burning, noses running. I had a headache that lasted about eight or nine hours. Later that night, I had really bad projectile vomiting.

GRANT MACKAY, ATTORNEY REPRESENTING RESIDENTS IN EAST PALESTINE: How do you explain the virtual masses of people going to the medical facility that are not being helped? You have people with diarrhea, digestive problems, puking, sore throats, extreme migraines that last forever. How do you explain this?


CAMEROTA: Bill Weir joins us now from the magic wall. Bill, these are acute symptoms and awful. So, what do we know about the toxic chemicals that this train was carrying, if that is what causing all of this?

WEIR: We know that about 20 of those cars were carrying hazardous materials. Five of them that derailed were carrying vinyl chloride. Just five cars out of 150 car train, that stuff is volatile enough that it caused this big mushroom cloud you saw there. We see it so much. It is used in the white PVC plastic pipe. It's a precursor to that ubiquitous piping used all over the western world. We know that in the 70s, entire factory workers who were exposed to it for high levels for a long time, experienced damage to liver and nerves. It is a carcinogen as well. There's less research about short- term exposure. The effects of drinking high levels are unknown.

Now, a lot of the experts we talked to said a lot of it probably did evaporates or explode in that controlled release there.


They said, boy, if they hadn't done that and if it was still leaching everywhere else, it would be a big problem. The stuff is poisonous enough that even California is considering banning PVC materials in food packaging.

We saw after the big fires after the campfire in Paradise, it heated up those communities so much it turned those pipes back into the volatile chemicals and tainted the water.

But even though some are arguing it should be banned, that's a bigger ask because it is booming. Ten million metric tons a year is what's expected in production by 2025.

The other big one there is butyl acrylate. This is used in adhesives and plastics. It can cause coughing, shortness of breath, that sort of roughness to the eyes and skin. A lot of the complaints we're hearing might have to do with this. Repeated exposure can lead to permanent lung damage as well.

But then there's other things that we really don't know about. That different complex chemicals, as they blew up in that controlled release, could have formed different things that then spread out and rained down on the community. And we have no idea if the EPA, either the Ohio or federal EPA, really knows what's in that there because there's such a dearth of information on the testing.

And the one expert I did talk to, we talked a little bit earlier, as they described, this is the stuff that ended up on your windshield, in the water, fish killed there as well. They look at the reports from the Ohio EPA. This is the head of the executive director of the Three Rivers Waterkeeper. She's also a trained PHD ecologist. She said some of the quality control was subpar in the samples.

It says in the reports that some of those samples were allowing too much of an air pocket at the top of the water sample, six millimeters, and that's enough to throw off the sample when you're measuring for these volatile organic compounds.

So, many questions about what exactly is out there and what exactly is causing those symptoms. Alisyn?

CAMEROTA: Bill, thank you for all that. Come back and join us on the panel. I want to bring in the panel now. Bill lays it out. Of course, people are getting sick. When you hear those hazardous ingredients, chemicals, how could they not be getting sick when that's turned loose in their community? CHAMPION: I think if I live there, and I can't even put myself in

that situation, but I'm sitting there and I'm listening to Bill, I'm listening to everyone explain what we are experiencing, and at the end of the day, I just want answers.

I don't need the big words. I don't need you telling me what caused it. I need you to tell me how to prevent it and how I can get to the hospital and stop my nose from bleeding, stop my child from vomiting, find out what's going on with my mother and my sister and everybody else, why all these animals die, and why are we pretending like this isn't as huge of a deal as it is.

And again, I go back to this, I honestly don't believe that we're taking this into -- we as a society, as a whole, are paying attention to the severity of all of this. I am devastated for those people. And you know what it feels like? It feels like I can see you, but I can't hear you.

Tonight, when we saw all of that anger and we saw so many people expressing their frustration to the CEO while, yes, he could've done more, I think a lot of it is just see us and hear us. That's the first part of solving the problem. That's what this did tonight.


CHAMPION: It healed a lot of people. See me and hear me. I have a name, I live here, here is my address, here is what I look like, this is my family's life, I have nowhere else to go.

CAMEROTA: Yeah, I totally agree. We've been covering it for two weeks but somehow tonight, even I felt differently about this disaster because they said it in such plain and powerful terms. To hear them explain it is different.

JONES: There are people watching who are saying, boy, that sounds terrible, they should move somewhere else, I wouldn't want to live there. But we know that it's not so easy to just pick up and move somewhere else. Right? People have lived here for generations, as we heard from Jim Stewart (ph), I believe, his name was. His family came from Germany. He told that story.

You know, when you don't have the financial resources to relocate, you are stuck in a place. And you've got roots there. You send your kids to school and all these other things.

And so, the situation really is like people are stuck in an environment where they have good reason to believe that the drinking water is not really drinkable and that the air is not something that they should be breathing in, that they won't get all of the medical care that they need when they visit the local hospital, and that nothing is materially going to change for the foreseeable future.

CAMEROTA: Alyssa, yeah, go ahead. What could he have said to address all of that?

GRIFFIN: I'm not sure until he has actual solutions. There are so many unknowns. At one point, they were talking about the local EPA official, that they were testing water, it was only the public flowing water. So, if you have a private well, you have no idea if that water is safe. There's a lot we still don't know.

To Mondaire's point, I was struck by the human side of this. My first thought was, what will I do in this situation?


And what I would do is pack up my family and go somewhere else. The median income in East Palestine is $27,000 a year. There's obviously, you know, resources and limitations on people's ability.

What I'm also struck by is their pride. This is their home. They love it. Nobody wants to leave. They want to be there. They just want to be safe. They want to have access to the basic things that they expect. And how quickly their lives went from, you know, just normal everyday living in their community to just completely uprooted is devastating.

CAMEROTA: So, on that point, what does happen when you don't feel safe in your own home? We're going to talk to an Ohio mental health official after this.



UNKNOWN: If you would you stay in East Palestine, would you come and spend the night there?


UNKNOWN: Until the cleanup is done, you'll stay with us within the one mile?

DEWINE: Yes. I've been there three times.

UNKNOWN: For a few hours. Would you stay overnight for a period of time?


UNKNOWN: Okay. Hopefully. We hold you to that.





CAMEROTA: Tonight, East Palestine residents explain the physical symptoms that they're still having since the train derailment. But what about the emotional toll this disaster is taking on that community? Joining me now is Lori Criss, the director of the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. Miss Criss, thanks so much for being here. Tell us what mental health issues you're seeing in East Palestine since this happened.

LORI CRISS, DIRECTOR, OHIO DEPARTMENT OF MENTAL HEALTH AND ADDICTION SERVICES: Well, thanks for having us and thanks for bringing this part of the topic into the conversation. Really, what we're seeing is a trauma response. After a disaster like this, the immediate aftereffects, we would definitely expect to see fear and anxiety, anger, a lot of other symptoms, too.

People, you know, having trouble sleeping or concentrating, maybe having loss of appetite, a lot of other behavioral kind of emotional experiences that come in the direct aftermath of a disaster like this.

CAMEROTA: I was so struck to hear people talk about how there are 50 trains that are still rolling through East Palestine every day and how unnerving that is to the people there. And so, is that PTSD? When they're hearing the trains and they're having these emotional responses, what can they do about that and what does that mean?

CRISS: Sure. It is called re-traumatization. Someone who has survived a trauma is potentially going to have something happen that makes them feel exactly like they did in the moment of that original trauma.

I grew up in a small town down the river from East Palestine. It was a steel town with lots of train tracks. When I was in East Palestine yesterday, I was talking to people about that experience. They were saying how they hear every whistle now. Growing up in a town like that, you don't hear the trains really on a day-to-day basis. It just becomes part of the rhythm and the noise around you.

So, they are. They're hearing it, they're having a freeze response, they have a physical response to that. And so, there are things they can do. There are things that the local community has put in place with a lot of attention and support from us since the night of the derailment that can help people as they move through this trauma experience.

CAMEROTA: One of the things that we heard tonight was all of the physical symptoms that people are still having. They are acute. So, people are still having bloody noses. Their children are having bloody noses. So badly that they need to go to the emergency room. People are still having nausea, headaches. They're vomiting.

And yet, you know, all the officials are telling them, well, all the tests for the air and water are coming back clean. I can imagine that that is crazy making for people because they know what they're feeling and that compounds the mental health issue.

CRISS: Well, I think it does in terms of adding stress to the unknown. Right? Part of a trauma experience is not knowing the next predictable thing. And so, there's a lot of unknowns right now. People know what they're feeling. They know what they're experiencing. And believing that and honoring that is a really important part of their experience right now, too.

That's why you heard the governor talk about the clinic that was set up and the opportunity for people to get some screenings, get connected to those specialists that might be able to help them really dive into those symptoms that they're experiencing and not just get to the root cause but also understand how to recover from those and move forward.

Part of that clinic, too, is we have some crisis response teams on site. So, if people want to talk to someone, to feel the opportunity to really tell their full story, be heard, be believed, and get connected to those supports that might help them for the long haul, that's there as well.

We know that this stress is going to be here in a really intense way for the first few weeks and months after this derailment. For many people, it will subside over time as things become more normal. For other people, it might remain intense for a longer period of time, and that would be a good opportunity for them to seek some support.

CAMEROTA: Lori Criss, really appreciate that. They need to be prepared that it's going to be weeks or months of experiencing this. Thank you very much for all the information.

CRISS: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: So, it turns out there are a lot more derailments every month in the U.S. than we knew. Next, we're going to look at the state of railroad safety in the U.S.



SHAW: We've dug up 4,600 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.

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

CONARD: So, until then, we'll just have it keep going down?



CAMEROTA: Trains are running again through East Palestine, Ohio and the mayor there explained how unsettling that sound is now.



MAYOR TRENT CONAWAY, EAST PALESTINE, OHIO: It's a little unnerving here when the trains go through after just what happened. But, you know, I attribute it (INAUDIBLE) being in a car wreck. You know, you're cautious after a car wreck.

But, yes, it's a little unnerving. You're hearing the trains come through. Maybe -- I think we need to look to some safety regulations and, you know, see if there is anything that we can change to maybe slow them down a little bit.


CAMEROTA: Now, we know train disasters are not as rare as we imagined. Bill Weir is back at the magic wall for us. We are also back with Cari Champion, Mondaire Jones, and Alyssa Farah Griffin.

So, Bill, obviously, train disasters are not exclusive to Ohio and we've learned just -- I don't want to say that they're common, but there's a lot more per year than I ever knew about, and trains are rattling through all of our neighborhoods every day.

WEIR: About a thousand derailments a year, Alisyn, if you can believe that. Fifteen percent of those, 150, are due to bad tracks. They are out of alignment or they can't take the weight of the cars going over. On a warming planet, when that infrastructure swells in hot places, that could get worse.

And, of course, when this happens, when you have a car in the wrong place at the wrong time carrying the wrong stuff, the results can be truly horrific.

This is just in the last 15 years or so. Central Valley, Illinois, one dead when a train carrying ethanol caught fire after derailing there. Paulsboro, New Jersey, this is very similar to the one here in Ohio. More toxic vinyl chlorine got into -- chloride got into the waterways as well. It was a legacy problem for years afterwards.

In 2013, a train with crude derailed and caught fire in Alabama. That same year, 47 people were killed when a train car exploded up in Canada. In Richmond, Virginia, 30,000 gallons of crude oil dumped in the river. This is not exhausted by any stretch. These are some of the worst cases. Of course, Norfolk Southern crash back in 2005 in South Carolina took nine lives there as well.

This is what you guys were talking about. You worry about this. This is just oil train routes in the United States. If you count the people who live within a half mile of an oil train, that's 25 million people who hear that sound, maybe differently after watching what's going on.

What really struck me, guys, is why this particular disaster resonated, given the number, given everything we've talked about right now. It got me thinking about how -- when I was a little boy, my toddler's age, rivers in Ohio regularly burst into flames. The Cuyahoga River near Cleveland was so polluted it set on fire nine times from the civil war up until the 60s.

In 1969, people finally took notice when "Time" magazine put the story in the magazine. They used a picture actually from 1952 because it was so common nobody got a shot of the fire in '69. But this, when the mayor of that said went to Congress and said, you've got to help us pay for this, it caught the country at a moment when they saw the pollution in the air, in the water, covering the ground around them.

We saw our first pictures from Apollo 8 of this little spaceship earth, and this gave rise to the modern EPA, the Clean Air and Water Act, which there's no reason you can swim in the Ohio River, and they drink out of it after treatment as well.

So, a lot of progress made, but maybe East Palestine could be a Cuyahoga fire moment when it comes to train safety, when it comes to the way we think about our railways and our waterways.

CAMEROTA: That would certainly be a silver lining. I bring back in the panel right now. Mondaire, let me just show everybody what Bill was talking about in terms of train derailments because the numbers, I think, are staggering. So, there were 1,100 in 2022. That's down from previous years. In 2017, there were 1,400 train derailments that year. Norfolk Southern has been responsible for upwards of a hundred every single year.

And so, should lawmakers be doing something in Washington about this?

JONES: I think they should. I think -- where do you begin? I mean, there's already regulatory authority to do some of the stuff that I think is required. I don't want to get too far ahead of things because we will get the NTSB report tomorrow. I think that will be instructive. But generally speaking, we have seen a period of deregulation when it comes to safety across industries. This industry is not excluded from that.

CAMEROTA: Specifically, with trains. As you know, there was that 2018 -- when did President Obama -- '15. In 2015, President Obama passed this regulatory rule that would have put the special breaks into each one of the cars.

JONES: There was a proposal for it. Industry lobbied against it and successfully blocked it.

CAMEROTA: Oh, I thought that it was supposed to actually go into effect in 2023.

JONES: Okay.

CAMEROTA: So, it was sort of a longer period thing, and then President Trump came in and repealed it.

JONES: We may be talking about two different things. Okay.


JONES: Yeah, I mean, you know, there's a lot of flak. Obviously, the secretary of Transportation has gotten over this. You know, I think a lot of it is political, unfortunately. The same people -- Marco Rubio, for example, have lambasted Pete Buttigieg for not, you know, putting some of these sort of safety inspection-related rules in place. It was just lobbying for waivers in a 2021 letter signed by not just Marco Rubio but a number of members of Congress.

And so, you know, when you deregulate, when it comes to safety, in particular, there are typically consequences as a result of that.

CAMEROTA: And now, Alyssa, do you think Republicans will have more than appetite for any kind of regulation, train regulation?

GRIFFIN: Unfortunately, I think this is one where people are going to go into the partisan corners. I thought it was very interesting, in an earlier segment you did, it showed the breakdown of lobbying that Norfolk Southern does. They give a little more heavily to Republicans and Democrats, but you are still talking to the tunes of tens of millions of dollars that they're engaging in Capitol Hill precisely to keep regulations out of place that could improve safety.

I think it is a real wake up for Republicans. Listen, I criticize the administration. I didn't feel like the Biden ministration was moving quickly enough to address what's happening. But we do know one of the factors was a result of regulation from the prior administration. That's just a fact of it. I also think --

CAMEROTA: Rolling back regulations.

GRIFFIN: Correct. I do think it's a good move that Secretary Buttigieg is planning to visit. I think that's a step in the right direction to keep the national focus on it.

JONES: One last thing on this. You know, the EPA has the primary responsibility to clean this up, the federal EPA. And so, you know, a lot of people are criticizing the secretary of Transportation for not getting out there sooner. There's actually not much his visit would accomplish other than making people feel good and maybe the argument is that in and of itself is the appropriate thing.

I want to be clear that it's more important that Michael Regan be there as he has been from the beginning. The EPA has been there since hours after the derailment, you know, making sure that they're assessing and doing the cleanup.

CAMEROTA: And Cari, let me play for you what Michael Regan said tonight.


MICHAEL REGAN, ADMINISTRATOR, EPA: 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.


CAMEROTA: So far, they're offering residents roughly $7 million.

CHAMPION: Yeah. The thing is I don't know if there's a monetary amount, honestly. Do you believe that there really is truly a number that says, it's okay, we're sorry for what we did? We probably could've prevented this if there wasn't deregulation. We probably could've done the right thing, but we chose not to, because we have to have this disaster, man-made, in order for us to look at really what's happening and pay attention.

I think it's really important what Bill just said. Is this a time for us to really make this a teachable moment and change what we do, right, with the train system? This is a moment for us to say let's really work on doing something that's good for this community, for the culture. And I think it is. But if we keep pointing at what the Republicans and what the Democrats are doing, will we ever get there? Will we get to that point?

I don't know about you all, but right now, this is not to be politicized, yet it will be. I feel as if we are missing the bigger picture, we as a society, as a whole. That's what I live with this. There is no dollar amount, not in my mind.

CAMEROTA: Yeah. For the man who has been there for generations, his family has been there for generations, and he wants to say in his home, what is the dollar amount to make him feel good again?

CHAMPION: Alisyn, we are not really talking about the mental toll that this is going to take on people. Is there a dollar amount for your sanity, for your peace? Is there any of that? I don't know if we are asking the right questions. Who are we looking at?

JONES: I will tell you, as a former litigator, people put dollar amounts on this kind of stuff all of the time. I think it means a lot that Norfolk Southern has a significant insurance policy because I think these people are going to get a lot of money.

CAMEROTA: There are already class action suits obviously propping up.

GRIFFIN: But they take so long. That's the hard part. You're going to be waiting so long to get that. But they deserve it.

CAMEROTA: Yeah. All right, everybody, stick around if you would. The theme tonight, a lack of trust in the people in charge, we'll talk about that, next.


DEWINE: I understand people's skepticism. I understand the confusion. I understand that they don't believe everything that they're told.




(COMMERCIAL BREAK) CAMEROTA: We heard promises of help tonight in CNN's town hall, but many East Palestine residents say they do not know who to trust.

Back with me, we have Bill Weir, Cari Champion, Mondaire Jones, and Alyssa Farah Griffin. Let us hear the governor of Ohio, Mike Dewine, talk about the skepticism of his constituents.


DEWINE: I understand people's skepticism, I understand the confusion. I understand that they don't believe everything they're told. But as a leader, you know, look, I've done this for a long time. I've been your governor for a long time. I've been in government for a long time. And the one thing I am is a straight shooter. I tell people, you know, what the facts are if we know what the facts are. We try to tell them the best information.

Sometimes, we don't know all the information. Sometimes, we get facts that maybe are wrong. But there is no way in the world I'm going to convey to you or to any other citizen a fact that I think is wrong and I'm telling you is right. I'm not going to do that. I'm going to tell you what I know, when I know it. And I'm going to continue to do that.


I think, you know, you judge someone by their -- by their -- by their whole record.


CAMEROTA: Alyssa, your final thoughts on that?

GRIFFIN: Listen, the governor's expectation setting. He doesn't have a lot of answers. He's a good man, he's a qualified leader, but it leaves something to be desired.

CAMEROTA: Mondaire?

JONES: I do. I think it is an incredibly difficult situation for the governor to be in and for anyone in government who has been tasked with responding to this, but, you know, there has got to be more transparency and there has got to be --

CAMEROTA: What could they say?

JONES: I think you've got to talk about the things that you're going to do to make it less likely to happen in the future, even if those things we do not know yet were tied precisely to what caused this derailment.

CHAMPION: If I'm there and I'm a citizen of that community, I live there, I'm thinking -- I have mixed emotions. I do not trust you. I don't know what to believe. But what I do hope, what we talked about in the break, is that hopefully this is that teachable moment, this is that changing moment so that there can be something done.


WEIR: Mr. Rogers (ph) said, in a tragedy, look for the helpers. But what happens when there is a political sort of strategy to say, don't trust the helpers? I think this is going to be hard for us. This is a moment for the country to figure out the toxic politics that are also part of this toxic spill and how we trust each other again.

CAMEROTA: CNN is not going anywhere. We are saying on this story until we get answers. Thank you so much for watching tonight. Our coverage continues.