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Over the weekend, Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt announced he blocked a request from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to receive a shipment of tons of toxic waste from the disastrous derailment in East Palestine.
“Immediately I worked with my team, Senator Lankford, Senator Mullin, and Congressman Lucas to stop the shipment from coming to our state,” Gov. Stitt said in a statement on Sunday.
Becoming aware that a shipment carrying 2,600 cubic yards of waste was en route to the Clean Harbors Lone Mountain Landfill Facility in Waynoka, a small town about 45 minutes north of Oklahoma City, Gov. Stitt and Oklahoma’s legislative leaders blocked the shipment from crossing state lines.
“There are too many unanswered questions and ultimately I made the decision that this is not in the best interest of Oklahomans. As of late last night that shipment has been blocked,” Gov. Stitt added.
The EPA has struggled to find states willing to accept the toxic waste after the Feb. 3 train derailment spread toxic chemicals into the air, soil and water in the small community of East Palestine, where many residents complain of health problems.
The EPA has ordered the company responsible, Norfolk Southern, to pay for cleaning up the disaster, and the EPA had already signed off on sending some of the waste to Oklahoma.
EPA balks at Gov’s blocking of toxic waste shipment
It isn’t unusual for states, including Oklahoma, to receive shipments of toxic waste. But the direct request from the EPA was, the Gov. told KOCO on Sunday.
“We shut it down,” Stitt told The Frontier. “… There’s too many unanswered questions and it didn’t smell right to me that something was being shipped halfway across the country.”
A spokesman for the EPA reacted to Stitt’s decision, accusing him of playing politics.
“Let’s be clear: Norfolk Southern is under contract with a permitted disposal facility in Oklahoma that is able to accept this waste. As is always the case with waste disposal, EPA has safeguards in place to ensure communities are protected every step of the way,” said Maria Michalos, the acting associate administrator for public affairs with the EPA in a statement. “Governor Stitt is playing politics at the expense of the people of East Palestine, Ohio.”
Meanwhile, Oklahoma already struggles with the harmful effects of toxic waste in certain communities due to “forever chemicals” from military disposal sites.
Racial and rural health disparities in Oklahoma can be attributed at least partly to toxic chemicals produced during the disposal process at military bases, including Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City and the Air National Guard Base at Tulsa International Airport, according to the EPA.
Ironically, a federal agency with a mandate to protect the health of communities appears willing to force Oklahoma to receive even more toxic chemicals.
“Our office does not intend to file litigation at this time,” Gov. Stitt press secretary Kate Vesper told The Black Wall Street Times.
The Black Wall Street Times has reached out to the Waynoka Clean Harbors facility for an update.